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Title: Dagonet Abroad
Author: Sims, George R.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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            |    Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors |
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                            DAGONET ABROAD



                            DAGONET ABROAD

                                  BY

                            GEORGE R. SIMS

                               AUTHOR OF
           ‘MARY JANE’S MEMOIRS,’ ‘THE RING O’ BELLS,’ ETC.

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                                LONDON
                      CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
                                 1895



                                  TO

                    COUNT ALBERT EDWARD VON ARMFELT

                       THE CONSTANT COMPANION OF

                            DAGONET ABROAD

               THESE PAGES ARE AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED
                             BY HIS FRIEND

                             GEO. R. SIMS



PREFACE


If ‘Dagonet Abroad’ is found to be mainly a record of personal
adventure, my excuse must be that I have always endeavoured to attend to
my own business and leave other people’s alone. I have described the
cities and peoples of Europe entirely from my own personal observation.
In no instance have I described a country without visiting it. I trust
that this admission will not in any way injure my reputation as a
traveller, or as a journalist.

                                                          GEO. R. SIMS.

LONDON,

   _September 1, 1895_.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

    I. IN BORDEAUX                                                     1

   II. IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY                                          13

  III. FROM BIARRITZ TO BURGOS                                        26

   IV. MADRID                                                         41

    V. SEVILLE                                                        65

   VI. GRANADA AND CORDOVA                                            84

  VII. COSAS DE ESPAÑA                                                95

 VIII. OFF TO AFRICA                                                 102

   IX. ALGIERS                                                       110

    X. SAINTS AND SINNERS                                            122

   XI. MONTE CARLO                                                   137

  XII. GENOA                                                         154

 XIII. FLORENCE                                                      166

  XIV. ROME                                                          177

   XV. NAPLES                                                        190

  XVI. VENICE                                                        216

 XVII. MILAN                                                         222

XVIII. A REVOLUTION IN TICINO                                        227

  XIX. LOCARNO                                                       238

   XX. BERLIN EN PASSANT                                             251

  XXI. PRAGUE                                                        258

 XXII. VIENNA                                                        269

XXIII. BUDAPEST                                                      278

 XXIV. A MAD KING’S PALACE                                           291

  XXV. HOLLAND                                                       295

 XXVI. ANTWERP AND BRUSSELS                                          305



DAGONET ABROAD



CHAPTER I.

IN BORDEAUX.


I am in Bordeaux in February, and in a hotel; which hotel I am not quite
sure. Over the top of the front door it is called ‘Hôtel de la Paix,’ on
the left side of the door it is called ‘Hôtel des Princes,’ on the right
side of the door it is called ‘Hôtel de Paris.’ It is three single
hotels rolled into one; but its variety of nomenclature is slightly
confusing. It is nice to be in so many hotels all at once, but I hope
they won’t all send me in a separate bill. The key to the enigma is
this: Many hotels in Bordeaux have failed, or given up business. The
landlord of _my_ hotel has bought the goodwill of each, and stuck its
title up over his own front door.

It is early in the morning and bitterly cold when I arrive, but as the
day advances it gets aired. The sun comes out in the heavens and slowly
gathers strength. By noon the streets are bathed in a warm glow.
Bordeaux has changed from the frozen North to the sunny South. It is no
longer Siberian; it is Indian. The pavements that were frozen with the
cold in the early morning are now baking with the heat. I fling off my
ulster, and I light a cigarette and stroll forth, airily clad, to bask
and revel in the golden sunlight.

At the corner of the street I come upon a great crowd dressed in black.
They are waiting for a funeral. Presently a modest little open hearse
draws up. It is drawn by two horses covered from head to tail in rusty
black clothing. Two men in faded bottle-green coats jump off, and go
into a house. Presently they return with a poor, cheap, common coffin.
They place it on the hearse, and throw a faded, rusty-looking pall over
it. Then one of the men returns to the house, and comes back with a big
wreath of yellow immortelles. On this is executed in black beads the
legend, ‘To Raoul Laval; from his friends of the Bureau.’

I mix with the crowd. I inquire who was this Raoul Laval who is starting
on his journey to the great Terminus. ‘An employé, monsieur, in the
great shop yonder,’ is the answer. ‘So this is the funeral of a little
clerk in a big shop,’ I say to myself. ‘Why, then, this big crowd?’ The
hearse starts. Then, to my astonishment, I behold this great crowd form
behind the hearse--old men and women, young men and maidens, two and
two, until the line of procession reaches as far as the eye can see. The
hearse is a black dot far away, and still the mourners fall in and
follow the little clerk to his grave. There are four gentlemen who hold
the tasselled cords of the pall. These are the proprietors of the great
emporium. Then come the relatives--Raoul’s mother and his wife--then all
the gentlemen in the office, then the gentlemen behind the counter and
the smart shopgirls and the humble little workgirls, the porters and the
packers, and the needlewomen, and the coachmen who drive out the carts,
and the boys who deliver the parcels. Every living soul, great and
small, rich and poor, all who earn their daily bread in that big
drapery house where Raoul Laval was a humble clerk, have turned out
to-day to do him honour and to see him home.

Slowly the long line of mourners (I count 760) passes on its way up the
broad street until it is out of sight. I am left alone looking after it.
Not quite alone, for an old man, who leans upon a stick and is bent with
age, stands beside me, and shades his time-dulled eyes from the fierce
sun, and peers through the distance to get the last glimpse of the
fast-vanishing cortége. ‘It is an honour to him, poor fellow!’ I say to
the patriarch, as we turn away together; ‘a great honour for the whole
firm to have followed him like this.’ ‘Yes, monsieur,’ he answers, ‘it
is an honour; but he deserves it. He has been a faithful servant to the
firm for twenty years, and everybody respected him. We shall all miss
him now he is gone.’ ‘Ah! you are of the firm, too?’ ‘Yes, sir; I am the
concierge. Poor Monsieur Raoul! Always a kind word for everybody, he
had; and always at his post, monsieur--always at his post. The firm has
lost a brave fellow--God rest his soul!’

Our ways divided; the old concierge went back to the shop, and I
strolled on to the busy quay, teeming with colour and movement and life.
But though I looked on the great river with its forest of masts, and
listened to the babble of the thousand labourers on the quay as they
loaded and unloaded the mighty ships, my thoughts were with the little
clerk of the big drapery shop who was having so grand a funeral.

Yes, a grand funeral. The horses were broken-kneed, the coffin was cheap
and common, the pall was threadbare and faded; but that great crowd of
genuine mourners was something that a monarch might have envied. For
every man and woman, every boy and girl in that long line of witnesses
to his worth, loved and respected the man. Happy Raoul Laval! Lucky
little clerk to have managed your life so well! How many of us whose
names are known to fame--how many of us who fret and fume, and wear our
hearts out in the battle for renown--would fall back into the ranks, and
toil on quietly as you did to gain such love and respect and sympathy
when our work is done, and we are put to bed to rest through the long
dark night that must be passed ere we awaken to that brighter day which
no living eyes may see!

Bordeaux is big and clean, and strikes one as a healthy town. The
streets are wide and well kept, and parks and open spaces are plentiful.
The people of Bordeaux have a healthy, happy, prosperous look. They walk
briskly, instead of slouching about like the people of Marseilles. In
fact, Bordeaux is the exact opposite of Marseilles. If you particularly
wanted to see what cholera was like, and had to pick out a town where
there was a fine chance of getting it, you couldn’t do better than try
Marseilles. If you wanted to escape from the epidemic, and get to a town
where there was the least probability of its following you, you couldn’t
do better than settle in Bordeaux. I can’t put the difference between
the two towns in a more striking way than that.

The French equivalent of ‘carrying coals to Newcastle’ is ‘carrying wine
to Bordeaux.’ You haven’t been in Bordeaux five minutes before the
presence of an enormous wine trade makes itself felt. Wine stares at you
and confronts you everywhere. The wine lists in the hotels are huge
volumes. Hundreds of varieties of wines, red and white, are elaborately
set out. First you have the names of the ‘cru’s,’ then the year, the
price, the proprietors, and the place where the wine was bottled. You
can read down a whole page of red wines, the cheapest of which is 25
francs a bottle, and the dearest 100 francs. These wine lists, which are
handed to you in every hotel and restaurant, are magnificently bound in
morocco and lettered in gold, and it is set forth that the ‘cellars’
from which you are drinking belong to a house founded so many years
after the Flood, and that it has ‘a speciality for the grand wines of
Bordeaux, bottled at the châteaux, with the mark of their authentic
origin on the corks, capsules, and labels.’

If ever one drinks genuine ‘Bordeaux,’ it ought to be at Bordeaux. At
Yarmouth one does not suspect the freshness of the bloater; in
Devonshire one blindly accepts the cream; at Banbury nothing can shake
one’s faith in the cake; and at Whitstable one does not say to the
waiter at one’s hotel, as he hands you the oysters, ‘Waiter, are these
_really_ natives?’ At Bordeaux I was prepared to gulp down even the _vin
ordinaire_ with the sublime faith of a Christian martyr; but, lounging
on the great quays of Bordeaux, my faith sustained a shock from which it
will never recover, and this is how it happened:

I am of a curious and inquiring turn of mind. When I saw great ships
being unloaded, and casks of wine being piled high upon the quays, I
said to my companion, ‘Albert Edward, mon ami’ (Albert Edward are the
Christian names of my travelling companion), ‘tell me is not this
strange? Behold, here are vessels which are actually carrying wine to
Bordeaux! Go and gather information.’ My companion departed, and
presently returned armed--nay, actually bristling--with facts.

The wine which we saw was wine imported from Spain. Enormous quantities
of common Spanish wines are brought periodically from Spain to Bordeaux,
and are there mixed with the ‘wines of the country.’ This discovery was
a great blow to me; but I had a still greater blow when I found
tremendous cargoes of all sorts of chemicals being unloaded, and I
learnt that these also were imported for the purpose of manufacturing
Bordeaux wines. Of course, the high-priced old wines are above
suspicion; but I don’t think I shall ever recover my faith in the _vin
ordinaire_, after seeing that tremendous importation of Spanish wines
and chemicals.

The fact is that Bordeaux has for a long time past been unable to meet
the tremendous demands for its wines. The phylloxera has further
increased the difficulty by ravaging the vineyards. So Nature having
failed, Art steps in to supply the deficiency.

For the terrible spread of the phylloxera the growers were probably
themselves originally to blame. They had been interfering with nature.
The farmers in some countries have come to grief again and again from
the same cause. Their crops have been destroyed by insects because they
(the farmers) slaughtered all the small birds who would have kept the
insects down. Everything in nature has its uses, and is meant to keep
things in proportion. The world only prospers so long as we eat one
another. Directly we upset the equilibrium of nature, we must pay the
penalty. Half the diseases and epidemics which ravage the world are
caused by the selfishness of man in endeavouring to work that willing
horse, Nature, to death.

My hotel is exactly opposite the Grand Theatre of Bordeaux. The theatre
is a magnificent building, and worthy of any capital. It stands alone in
the centre of an immense square. This theatre was in 1871 the seat of
the French Government, and here the Chamber of Deputies sat. It is very
nice to live opposite a grand theatre, because you can pop across the
road after dinner, and there you are, don’t you know.

While I was in Bordeaux a grand opera company had possession of the
theatre, and it was for this reason that I presently found out that
there are also _dis_advantages in living in a hotel opposite a grand
theatre. I had just settled down to my work, when I was startled by
female shrieks in the next room to me. I imagined that a murder was
being committed, and I rushed to the keyhole. But the shrieks suddenly
became melodious, and then merged into shakes and cadenzas and trills,
and general vocal gymnastics of the high Italian style. It was the prima
donna of the opera company practising for the evening. She practised all
the morning and all the afternoon, and it was past seven in the evening
before she left off.

It was very interesting at first to hear all those lovely top notes
gratis, but when a lady in the room on the other side of me commenced
the same diversion in a rich contralto, and the gentleman in a room on
the other side of my corridor began to sing in a basso profundo, and a
gentleman up above me, who was the leading violinist, began tuning his
fiddle, and a gentleman somewhere else in the hotel practised a solo on
the trombone, being engaged for a private party after the opera, I began
to gather together my writing materials, and rang the bell for the
waiter, and inquired if he could direct me to a hotel, a little way out
of town, at which the members of an opera company were not likely to put
up.

The soprano lady in the next room to me was Mdlle. Isaak, and she
travelled with a nice old mama and a dear old papa. Mama and papa
accompanied her everywhere, and when they were in their own room they
sat and applauded her shakes and runs vigorously with their feet and
their hands. They all three came down and dined opposite me in the
restaurant, and even between the courses Mdlle. Isaak hummed a little
aria from the opera, and papa kept time with his fork on his wine-glass.

I had grand opera all day, and long after midnight I was suddenly
aroused from my slumber by a terrific operatic duet in the next room.
The tenor had returned to supper with the soprano family, and he and the
lady were obliging mamma and papa with the duet they were going to sing
together on the morrow. When they had finished I rose stealthily, and
crept to the keyhole and hissed through it like a hundred discontented
first-nighters. I would have paid my hotel bill twice over to have seen
the faces of mamma and papa when that unwelcome sound burst upon their
startled ears.

I have told you what beautiful sunshine we had at Bordeaux, and how nice
and warm it was in the daytime. As long as the sun kept out it was
lovely; but oh, when the sun went down! They gave me a beautiful, large,
lofty room at the hotel, with doors and windows all over it. After
dinner I went up to it to try and write, and then I found that Siberia
had come again. I put great logs of wood upon the fire, and blew them
with the bellows till the flames roared up the chimney; but still I
shivered in the icy blasts that blew through every crevice. I put on my
ulster, I dragged the blankets from the bed, I ran races round the room,
and practised the Indian clubs with a heavy portmanteau in each hand;
but still I felt my blood congealing, and the horrors of the early
morning came back again. In this dilemma my companion’s Soudan
experiences stood us in good stead. (He was with Gordon in the
expedition of ’76-’77.) He took our walking-sticks and umbrellas, and
with these and the blankets and the rugs he rigged up a nice,
comfortable tent in front of the fire. Sitting in this tent in our big
room we at last got warm, and my fingers were able to hold a pen.

People who have not travelled find it difficult to believe how cold it
can be at night in places which are hot during the day. Houses in these
places are arranged to keep out the warmth, and in consequence they let
in the cold. A Russian gentleman who was shivering in Rome said to me
one evening: ‘Ah, in my country we _see_ the cold; in Italy we _feel_
it.’ It is a fact that in a really cold country you can always keep
yourself warm, while in a warm country you find it extremely difficult
to prevent yourself feeling cold.

I think we saw everything in Bordeaux except the Zoological Gardens, and
we didn’t see these for a reason. At the hotel they gave me a local
guide-book, which duly set forth the wonders of the town. A whole page
was devoted to the Zoological Gardens. Here, the book informed the
traveller, were to be seen lions and tigers and elephants, all sorts of
dogs and monkeys and serpents and rare birds. Moreover, on Sunday
afternoons, it stated, there was always a grand concert and a children’s
ball. ‘Ah!’ said I to myself, ‘this is the thing for Sunday afternoon.
Let us away to the lions and tigers and the children’s ball.’ We hailed
a chariot which was on the rank--a regular Lord Mayor’s coach, with room
for twenty inside, and magnificently decorated. True, it was about one
hundred years old, and it dropped little bits of itself as it rattled
over the stones. The coachman was eighty if he was a day, and he sat on
the huge box-seat with his feet in great sabots stuffed full of hay. We
were able in this immense vehicle to take driving and walking exercise
together, for we walked round and round it inside arm-in-arm, while two
bony and broken-kneed horses staggered along the streets with it. We
told our coachman to take us to the Zoological Gardens. He said nothing,
but drove on with us.

In about a quarter of an hour he put us down at the Jardins Publiques,
and we entered. Beautiful hothouses, a fine museum, nice lawns and
ponds, but no animals. We re-entered the dilapidated Lord Mayor’s coach,
and said that was not what we wanted. We desired the gardens with the
animals and the children’s ball. Good! Off we drove again.

Presently the old coachman, by a series of feeble gymnastic exertions,
dropped himself off the box and came to the carriage-door. ‘Pardon, but
would the gentlemen like to see the Museum of Paintings?’ We said we
would do anything to oblige so venerable a man; and he took us to the
picture gallery. Then we started once more, impressing upon our aged
Jehu that the real object of our promenade _en voiture_ was the local
Zoo. This time he drove us for nearly three-quarters of an hour, and at
last pulled up in a lonely suburb opposite a stone wall, and, landing
himself by easy stages to the earth, came hat in hand to the door and
begged us to descend.

We descended. He then personally conducted us to a gap in the wall which
was boarded up. In one board there was a little hole. ‘Behold,
gentlemen,’ he said; ‘if you will give yourselves the trouble to look
through that little hole you will see the ground which is being
converted into a new public park. It will be finished in two years.’ We
looked through and beheld a waste of brick and mortar and plank-strewn
ground--and nothing more. ‘But this is not the garden with the animals
and the children’s ball!’ I exclaimed, after catching a violent cold in
my eye from the wind which blew through the little hole in the hoarding;
‘a truce to practical joking, mon vieux! To the Zoological Gardens at
once, or I will swear at you.’ The old man bowed and smiled and
grinned, and begged a thousand pardons. He would gladly conduct us to
such a place, but he did not know where to find it.

Then I abused him. I told him his conduct was disgraceful--that he had
no right to be a coachman in Bordeaux if he did not know the way to its
most famous place of public resort. He replied that he had never heard
of such a place. Then I called a police-officer, and interrogated him.
He, too, knew of no wild animals in Bordeaux, and of no gardens such as
I described. We interrogated every passer-by, including a postman. The
latter told us that perhaps we meant Paris--there was a garden like that
there. In despair we gave up the expedition, and returned in the Lord
Mayor’s coach to our hotel.

There we triumphantly produced the local guide-book and read it aloud to
the coachman, the concierge, the waiters, and the landlord. It made no
impression. One and all declared on their honour, as citizens of
Bordeaux, that no such place existed in the town. _And they were right._
I ascertained the fact by finding an old man who had lived seventy years
in Bordeaux, and he told me that when he was a boy there was such a
place, but it had disappeared this fifty years. And my guide-book is
dated 1885! The editor is a good citizen. He refuses to allow the
attractions of his native town to disappear from his pages. He wishes to
paint his city to the greatest advantage. He is right from his point of
view; but a guide-book which includes exhibitions which have been closed
for fifty years--whose very sites have been built over--is not the best
companion for a traveller who hires a carriage by the hour in order to
drive about and see ‘everything.’

I didn’t trust to that guide-book any more. I quitted Bordeaux on Monday
for Bayonne, _en route_ for Biarritz. If you go to Biarritz direct, you
must leave by a train at seven in the morning. I don’t love early
rising, so I determined to take a later train to Bayonne, from which
place you can get on to Biarritz at any time. The distance is 124 miles,
and the train does it in seven hours. It was slow, but I did not regret
the journey.



CHAPTER II.

IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY.


Bayonne, as all good little girls and boys who take prizes at school for
geography and history are aware, is a fortified town commanding the
passes of the West Pyrenees, and is a high road to Spain. It was here
that the citadel which formed the key to an entrenched camp of Marshal
Soult was invested by a portion of the army of the Duke of Wellington in
1814. The whole neighbourhood teems with memories of the halcyon days of
the British arms. One comes to many a spot immortalized by a story which
makes the Briton’s heart beat faster with patriotic pride. The arms of
England may still be seen upon the vault of the cathedral, and in the
cemetery lies many a gallant officer and brave soldier of the Coldstream
Guards who fell in the sortie of April 14, 1814. It was here---- But for
further particulars look up your history. The dead past can bury its
dead; my business is with the present.

I had a terrible fright coming from Bordeaux to Bayonne. The railway
runs for a portion of the way through the Landes, a vast tract of heaths
and ash-coloured sands and brackish streams. The inhabitants of this
strange district lead hard and terrible lives. Food is scarce, and, what
is worse, they can get very little water that is fit to drink, most of
Sir Wilfrid Lawson’s favourite beverage that finds its way to the
Landes being salt and nauseous. I reached the Landes after the moon had
risen. Owing to a little accident on the line, we were detained at a
wayside station for half an hour. I lit a pipe, and strolled outside and
made my way down a kind of road that skirted a wild, uncultivated heath.
The road was very lonely, and everything looked weird in the moonlight.
I was alone, for my companion had sacrificed comfort to a tight boot,
and declined to walk. All of a sudden I saw a gigantic shadow thrown on
the ground in front of me. I looked up and beheld a man twelve or
fourteen feet high stalking towards me with strides that covered ten
feet of ground at a time. On, on the giant came at a terrific pace, and
the great beads of perspiration broke out upon my brow. He was a
wild-looking giant, with long black hair, and a huge sheepskin covered
his body. His legs were the longest and the thinnest I had ever seen in
my life. I didn’t believe he was human. I made up my mind he was a
creature from the fable world, and that I was about to be carried away
to his haunt, wherever it may be, and devoured. I thought of Jack and
the Beanstalk, and I expected the creature every moment to say, ‘Fee,
fo, fum!’ and refer to the fact that the blood of an Englishman had
saluted his olfactory organs. Just as I was going to drop on my knees
and shriek for mercy, the giant suddenly halted, put a big pole which he
carried in his hand behind his back, and stood stock-still in the
moonlight, a living, breathing tripod.

I held my breath, and waited for the dénouement. The giant raised his
cap, and asked me, in excellent French, if I could tell him what the
time was. Then I took a calmer view of him, and suddenly it dawned upon
me that my giant was no giant at all, but merely a shepherd of the
Landes mounted upon enormous stilts.

I am not the first traveller who has been startled by such an
apparition. The inhabitants of this district walk upon stilts from
childhood to old age. They would not be able to get over the sandy
ground studded with prickly heather in ordinary boots and shoes. They
stride over hedges and ditches in this way at a pace which no horse can
keep up with, and while they are watching their flocks they stick a long
pole in the ground, and, resting their backs against it, stop in this
position for hours knitting stockings. The spectacle to the unaccustomed
eye is one of the most startling that can be conceived. I told my
stilted friend the time, and, wishing him good-night, walked back to the
station; but it was a long time before I got over the ‘turn’ which his
sudden apparition in the moonlight had given me.

In Bayonne I spent the Mardi Gras and had my ‘carnival.’ The people of
the South know how to be merry and enjoy themselves, and they can
disguise themselves humorously and in good taste. All night long the
quaint streets were crowded with hundreds of masquerading revellers, and
the fun was fast and furious. Many of the costumes were Spanish, and
really fine pieces of colouring. The ladies were particularly charming,
though I fancy some of them must have suffered the next day with
rheumatism in the lower limbs, for the roads were damp and muddy, and
the wind blew keenly. Wet roads and keen winds are hardly suited to
extra short skirts and pink fleshings and dainty little shoes and
head-dresses of gauzy lace.

They certainly were not rheumatic on the night of the Mardi Gras, for I
procured a box at the theatre and watched the grand carnival ball at its
height during the small hours. The masked ball at the Paris Opera House
is a grander sight for variety and richness of costume, and the crowd of
revellers is greater, but no ball that I have ever witnessed came near
to this little Bayonne celebration in mirth and unforced gaiety and
rollicking good humour. Heavens, how the natives danced! How they
whirled round and round, and capered and kicked their legs up, and
laughed and shouted, and threw themselves heart and soul into the
maddest of mad quadrilles! I left the theatre at four in the morning,
and the Bayonne lads and lasses, masked, disguised, and brilliantly
costumed, were hard at it still; and when I got outside into the cool
air of the early morning there were still dozens of masqueraders, male
and female, promenading the public square arm-in-arm, with never a cloak
or a wrap about them, yet not a single cough or sneeze broke in upon the
merry laughter that floated on the cool and humid air. I hurried towards
my hotel with my overcoat buttoned to my chin, and on my way I passed a
little sylph in an airy pink ballet costume, seated on a stone bench,
and listening to the old, old story from the lips of a youthful Spanish
matador; and the little sylph in pink gauze had taken great care not to
sit upon the delicate texture of her skirts. I could understand that the
tender passion had warmed her heart, but it must have also spread a glow
all over to enable her to listen to the vows of her swain in that
costume and on that seat without a single chatter of the teeth.

From Bayonne, before going to Biarritz, I determined to push further
into the interior of the Basque country, and see for myself this strange
race of people as they are in their mountain homes. Many of the
inhabitants of Bayonne are Basque, and all the servants in the hotels.
From coachmen, waitresses (there are very few waiters in Basque hotels),
peasants, and fishermen, I gleaned a good deal of useful information
before starting; but years of study might be devoted to this
extraordinary people, the aborigines of Western Europe, who have seen
Celts, Carthaginians, Romans, Goths, Vandals, and Saracens pass away
like shadows, and still linger on themselves, retaining their old
traditions and superstitions and their old language, which is like no
other European tongue. Of their habits and customs, and of their homes,
I shall have something to say presently; but I cannot resist giving here
a specimen of this extraordinary Basque language, which one hears to-day
freely talked, not only in the mountains and the valleys, but in the
busy streets of the big towns.

The following paragraph I take from a dialogue between two Basque
peasants, which is printed in a Basque paper. An election in the
department was fixed for February 27, and it is concerning the merits of
the Conservative and the Republican candidate that Batichta and Piarres
are engaged in animated converse:

     ‘BATICHTA ETA PIARRES.--Canden igande arratsaldean, bezperetaric
     lekhora, ikhus, en gintuen Batichta eta Piarres, bi etcheco jaun
     adiskide handiac, bici bicia mintzo pilota plaza hegal batean.
     Huna, gero entzun dugunaz, car cerasaten.’

The linguist will see how utterly unlike any European tongue these words
are. There is a suggestion of Arabic now and then, and a slight
resemblance to a few Finnish and Spanish words; but, as a whole, it is
absolutely original. Here is the translation: ‘Last Sunday, in the
afternoon, on coming from vespers, we noticed two landowners--Batichta
and Piarres--two good friends. They spoke very excitedly at the corner
of the Jeu de Paume ground, and here is what they said----’ Then
follows a long political conversation.

The Basques are strongly anti-Republican. Hundreds of young men are
leaving their villages and going to South America to avoid serving in
the army of the Republic. Their fathers would rather let their children
go from them to the great land beyond the seas than see them fighting
for a Government which they detest. The Basque population swarms in such
places as Ecuador, Uruguay, the Brazils, Chili, and the Spanish-speaking
portions of South America. Many of them return in after-years, rich and
prosperous, to their native mountain homes, and build magnificent
châteaux on the site of the old paternal cottages. When they return they
are called ‘Americans'; and this rather bothered me, as one day, near
Cambo, I had grand villa after villa pointed out to me as the residence
of an ‘American.’ By cross-questioning my guides I arrived at the truth.
The ‘Americans’ were wealthy Basques who had made fortunes ‘across the
seas,’ and come home to be great men among their poorer compatriots.
There is a good deal of South America dotted about the Basque country.
You come upon the ‘Auberge de Monte Video,’ and the ‘Hôtel de Buenos
Ayres,’ and the ‘Auberge de Rio Janeiro.’ My coachman’s sister has
married and gone to Peru. My chambermaid’s brother is making money in
Chili. An old fisherman who told me all the legends of St. Jean de Luz
has two sons at Monte Video. Half the cottagers one talks to have
friends and relatives in South America. South America is the El Dorado
of the young Basque’s dreams. But when he has made his pile, he likes to
come back to the old home, and spend it among his people.

With all these travellers among them, you would think the Basque
peasantry would cease to be strongly conservative, that their ideas
would broaden, and their exclusiveness would be broken down. But it is
not so. They hate railways, and they hate the foreigners to come and
disturb their peaceful ways. At Cambo the other day I fell in with a
group of small landowners who were discussing the new railway schemes,
and they were purple with passion that such an idea should have been
mooted.

This conservative spirit among the Basque population is tremendously
worked upon at election time. It will be interesting to all who study
French politics (and who does not nowadays?) to see the sort of language
which a local Conservative candidate indulges in at the expense of the
Republic. Listen to this:


FOR GOD AND FOR FRANCE.

Electors of the Basses Pyrénées,--The struggle begins; the banners are
unfolded. On which side should good Catholics and simple and honest
folks range themselves? Under the banner of the Republic?

No; for it is this Republic whose dead weight lies upon our unhappy
country, and crushes out its life.

Who suppressed the catechism and prayers in our public schools?

Who has driven God from the army?

Who has driven the priest from the bedside of the sick and of the dying?

Who established the anti-Christian and immoral law of divorce?

Who, not content with paganizing France, has robbed her of her fortune
and her glory?

Who for the last ten years has augmented by milliards the debt of
France?

Who dishonours the armies of France by making them the Armies of the
Republic?

Who has left us in all Europe without a single alliance?

Who has led us to the very brink of war, from which God preserve us?

The Republic!

Will you vote for the Republic?

No; you will vote for God and for France--

And for the Conservative candidate.

This inflammatory address is placarded throughout the Basque villages of
the department concerned in the election. Crowds of the peasants stand
round the walls and read it sympathetically.

Everything is bright and pretty and quaint and picturesque in the Basque
country. The men, clean shaven and with fine Saracen faces, in their
dark blue berets and red waistbands; the women, with their red, or blue,
or black, or yellow toques; the half-Spanish, half-Swiss houses; the
carts drawn by yoked oxen; the waggons and diligences with their long
string of Spanish mules; the crosses and signs upon the doorways; the
Eastern custom of carrying gracefully water-jars upon the head; the tall
wooden crosses on every hill and highway--all these things, thrown into
relief by a background of glorious scenery, make an impression upon the
traveller which does not soon pass away.

The waitress in my hotel, who is at once waitress, _femme de chambre_,
and everything that is useful, is a wonder in her way. Of Spanish Basque
origin, she has travelled with families during her early life, and she
speaks Spanish, French, German, and Italian, as well as her native
Basque. She likes the English, she tells me, and is very proud of the
fact that she one day waited on the Prince of Wales when he came
incognito to breakfast at the Hôtel St. Martin, at Cambo (a beautiful
Basque village about twelve miles from Bayonne). No one knew the Prince,
and he and his companions made a good breakfast, and then went about and
talked with the villagers, and inspected the farms, and smoked their
cigars out on the terrace of the hotel, which overlooks a landscape not
to be matched in Switzerland. The Prince talked to my waitress, and
asked her what this was in Basque and what that was, and questioned her
as to the habits and customs of the country.

To all intents and purposes the royal party were simply English
tourists, when suddenly a grand carriage drove up to the hotel. A French
duke and another gentleman alighted, and, bowing themselves into the
presence of the Prince, invited him to a grand breakfast at Biarritz;
and a third gentleman arrived almost immediately with an invitation from
the English consul. ‘Thanks,’ said the Prince, laughing; ‘I have
breakfasted excellently, and I’m going to spend the day here. Let me
enjoy myself in this delightful spot, like good fellows, and go back and
say you couldn’t find me.’

My _femme de chambre_ ran on for a quarter of an hour eulogizing the
Prince. She has the five-franc piece which he gave her when he paid his
bill, and it is to go to her family when she dies as a precious legacy.
She believes in royalty tremendously, for the royal family of Portugal,
she tells me, always stop at this hotel, and they laugh and talk with
her always like old friends. ‘Ah,’ she says, ‘your royal folks when they
travel are simple and easily pleased, and they make no fuss. It is your
people of small rank who are proud and cold and want so much attention.
There is a little German countess who comes here in the season _en
route_ for Biarritz, and she travels with a dog and two servants, and
she must have the whole of the first-floor reserved for her, and she
will take nothing from the servants of the hotel. Her dog even will not
notice us, but walks past us with his tail in the air.’

I let my _femme de chambre_ chatter on. She tells me stories of the
Empress Eugénie in the old Biarritz days, and tears come into her eyes
as she speaks of the dead Prince Imperial. They worship the memory of
the imperial family of France all round this district, and have many a
pleasant tale to tell of the young lady who lived so much among them in
the days before the love of an emperor raised her to the throne. When
she has quite finished her royal and imperial anecdotes, I
cross-question her as to Basque habits and customs and superstitions. My
head is full of the beautiful Basque legends and ghost stories which I
have lately picked up, and I ask her if it is true that the people still
believe in them. Then she informs me that her venerable father and
mother are Basque peasants, and that they themselves believe in
witchcraft and sorcery, and all the spells of the Evil One, and all the
bad spirits that haunt the mountains and the woods. Her papa has, in
fact, just moved out of his house on account of sorcery. He lost last
year six cows, and he was so convinced that they had been bewitched, and
that a spell had been worked upon his house, that he quitted it, and
built another close by. He then sent for the priest to come and bless
it, and after that he painted up a big white cross on the front door to
keep the evil spirits from entering therein. ‘Superstitious!’ she says.
‘Ah, mon cher monsieur, I have travelled and seen the world, and I know
better; but when I go to my native village and say I do not believe in
witches and charms and the evil spirits of the night, the peasants cross
themselves, and my old father and mother weep and curse themselves for
allowing me to leave home and become “une fille perdue.”’

Wandering about the Basque villages, I have gleaned a few of their
superstitions. No man, woman, or child among them will be out of doors
after midnight, for they all believe that wicked spirits are abroad, and
that terrible misfortune will befall anyone who meets them. On certain
feast days they light a great fire, and the whole family kneels and
prays round the burning wood until it is all reduced to ashes. These
ashes are then carefully collected and scattered on the fields to make
them fruitful. If any man neglects to propitiate the spirits by strewing
these ashes, his crops will fail.

One afternoon I come to a little auberge on the slope of a lonely
mountain on the Spanish side. A great white cross is roughly chalked on
the door, and outside sits an old woman talking with the landlord and
his wife. They are listening with rapt attention, and cross themselves
again and again. Presently the old crone goes away, and I sit on the
bench and call for something ‘for the good of the house,’ and gradually
get the landlord to tell us what the old lady was talking to him about.
Then he tells us that last night the old crone saw the ‘arguiduna’ in
the village graveyard--the ‘arguiduna’ of her son whom she buried a
month since. The ‘arguiduna’ is the soul of a dead person when it takes
the shape of a will-o'-the-wisp. This strange light came from her son’s
grave, and stopped close to her. As she moved away it followed her, and
accompanied her to the old home. On the threshold she stood still, and
her son’s soul in its fiery form circled three times round her, and then
slowly went up, up, up into the skies till it was lost among the stars.
‘And now,’ says the innkeeper, ‘the old mother is happy, for she has
been in great trouble about her boy, for he had been wild and had done
many evil things, and she feared it might not be well with his soul. Now
that she has seen the “arguiduna” go up like that to the skies, she
knows that his sins have been forgiven him, and that he is with the
blessed. She will weep for him no more.’

People who live in great cities, where ideas rush at railway speed, and
where the bustle and noise of modern life destroy romance and drive
fancy from the field, find it difficult to believe that such a
superstition as this can be implicitly believed by a whole race of
people living in civilized countries in the nineteenth century; but
these Basque people believe to this day in all the legends and fables
which their ancestors believed a thousand years ago. With them nothing
has changed, and to-day they have their Arguiduna; their Maitgarri, or
Fairy of the Lakes; the Lamia, a weird being inhabiting the wave-washed
coasts; the Jauna, or Spirits of the Wood; and the Sorguinas, the
Spirits of the Plains. In these and a hundred other spirits, evil and
good, in witches, sorcerers, and devils, the Basque people of to-day
believe as firmly and as devoutly as they did in the dark ages. Their
daily life, their habits and customs, are all shaped by these
superstitions, and their priests, unable to combat them, now tacitly
admit them, and even bless many of the charms which they use against the
spirits of darkness. And these people live many of them within walking
distance of a railway-station, and Liberal candidates address them and
canvass for their votes at election time.

Cambo is a lovely Basque village, about twelve miles from Bayonne.
Imagine a sweet Swiss valley shut in by an amphitheatre of olive-green
and purple hills! Through the valley winds a broad stream of silver
water. Fair white houses, and châlets with bright red roofs, throw back
the rays of a glorious sun that bathes the scene in golden light. Above
is a sky of cloudless blue. Far as the eye can reach all is luxuriance
and beauty. As one gazes upon the perfect landscape from the broad stone
terrace of the Hôtel St. Martin, a great peace steals into one’s soul,
and the cares and troubles of the outer world are for a time forgotten.
On the slope of the hill which faces this glorious scene stands a quaint
Basque village. The people live by the land, which yields a bounteous
harvest. They keep the simple manners and customs of bygone centuries;
they have been here, undisturbed by the rattle of traffic and the snort
of the railway engine, ever since the place came into existence; and
now, if you please, the French are going to desecrate their village with
a railway. There is to be a station at Cambo. The inhabitants are
furious; the landowners have refused to sell their land, and the
Government replies that if they persist it will be taken from them by
force.

My sympathies are with Cambo. A railway will destroy the poetry of the
place. All the Basque people ask is to be allowed to live quietly in
their homes. They don’t want to be hustled by a crowd of townsfolk,
whose ways are not their ways, and who speak a foreign language. Even
the rich ‘Americans,’ whose splendid châteaux dot the hills, are crying
out. They are Basque to the backbone, and they don’t want excursionists
gaping about their grounds, and driving over them in their winding,
tree-shaded roadways.

But I must not go Basque-mad, and imagine everyone is as interested in
the people as I am. Let us return to modern civilization, and go to
Biarritz. My coachman drives me there from Bayonne. He is a beautiful
creature, my coachman. He wears the old postilion jacket and hat. He is
trimmed with scarlet and silver lace, and my arithmetic stops short in
an attempt to add up his buttons. His little jacket alone costs £5; his
waistcoat costs £1; his hat costs 15s.; and his horses have bells all
over them, so that we make merry music as we dash along the roads, and
the whip cracks joyously, and the dogs bark a concert in our rear, and
the children pursue us at full speed, yelling for coppers; and that’s
how we go to Biarritz.



CHAPTER III.

FROM BIARRITZ TO BURGOS.


Biarritz disappoints one at first, and then grows upon one. It is like a
jumble of Ilfracombe, Westgate-on-Sea, the Land’s End, Ostend, and
Broadstairs. The sea dashes in gloriously, and makes tremendous breaches
in coast and cliff. The hotels are as grand as money can make them, and
on the Parade, in all their glory, I came suddenly upon Mary Ann and
Susan, two English nursemaids, in the usual hats and feathers, and the
usual imitation fur-trimmed jackets, and the usual fingers through the
gloves, wheeling unmistakable English perambulators, full of
unmistakable English babies; and when, later on, I came upon Eliza Jane
sitting down and reading the _London Journal_ while _her_ perambulator
was gently working itself, baby and all, over the parade on to the
beach, I actually looked up and down and round about for the Life
Guardsman.

The French _bonnes_ and the Basque nurses, so clean, so neatly dressed,
must have been considerably astonished when Mary Ann and Eliza Jane
first came from Clapham to the Bay of Biscay. Even now they eye their
ostrich feathers, their brooches, and their fur-trimmed jackets with
awe. I earnestly trust the awe is not mixed with admiration. It would be
a very terrible thing if the neat and picturesque French _bonne_,
corrupted by the English example, suddenly broke out into hats and
feathers, and bad boots and rusty finger-twisted gloves. The downfall of
France would then be assured. Whichever way I turn, the British
nursemaid meets me and defies me. I sit down to contemplate a grand
effect of wave-washed rock, and a female voice behind me shouts to
Master Tommy not to go too near the edge; I climb the cliffs and gaze at
the distant coast of Spain, and a little imp in a sailor costume, with a
broken spade and a sand-grimed bucket, assaults me with, ‘Please, sir,
can you tell me the time?’ I find a lovely romantic spot right out on
the extreme ledge of an overhanging rock, and, on turning round to look
back at the town, I see a young woman behind me nursing a baby and
reading the _Family Herald_. When I rise and fly to the streets for
refuge, when I gaze into the shop windows at the fans and tambourines of
Spain, the English nursemaid still pursues me. A perambulator is wheeled
across my heels, and the wheeleress says, ‘Beg yer pardon, sir; I ‘ope I
didn’t ‘urt you!’

Ye gods! Is it for this I have travelled many hundreds of miles? Is it
for this I have been saturating myself with the language and the legends
of the Basques? I go to an hotel and order my lunch. At the next table
to me are a young gentleman and a young lady. The young gentleman says,
‘Are you coming to the lawn-tennis ground this afternoon?’ and the young
lady replies, ‘No; Jack’s going to drive me to St. Jean de Luz in his
dogcart.’ It is all English--everywhere English, and nothing but
English. The stationers’ shops are full of English valentines and
English books; the grocers’ shops display English jams and English
pickles; the chemists’ shops have their windows stocked with English
patent medicines, and English pills and English plaisters; and, as I
live, when I turn to make a mad dash for the railway-station, two
little boys come along arm-in-arm, and as they walk they whistle
‘Grandfather’s Clock'!

Oh, for the lost illusions of my youth! Oh, for the Biarritz of my
dreams! I am at Margate; I am at Brighton; I am at Eastbourne; I am
anywhere and everywhere on the coast of England; but I can’t possibly be
on the Biscayan shores, and almost within hail of the Spanish coast!
Sadly I enter the train, and return to Bayonne and a foreign land. I
like England _in_ England; but to come to Biarritz and find everything
British, to be abroad and to be run down by London nursemaids, and to
have ‘Grandfather’s Clock’ all over again, is worse than earthquakes to
me.

After the shock of the English nursemaids wore off, I appreciated
Biarritz at its true value, and I ceased to wonder that it had such a
large winter colony of English. All along this coast there are huge
hotels, which are kept open in the winter solely on account of the
English. At St. Jean de Luz, a lovely little seaside spot, I saw a whole
dozen of English Mary Janes and Sarah Anns sitting on the Parade in the
warm sunshine, and talking, I suppose, of the lovers they had left in
dear old England far away. While I was in the post-office, an English
nursemaid came in and sat down at the table, and put the stamps lovingly
on a letter she had in her hand, and I was curious enough to look over
her shoulder and read the address. It was ‘Private John Smith, The
Barracks, Chelsea.’ How I wished I could see under the envelope! I
should like to read a description of life on the Basque coasts from the
pen of a true-born British nursemaid, reared in all the insular
prejudices and antipathies.

If I had to choose the spot where I would spend my winter, it would not
be Biarritz or St. Jean de Luz, but San Sebastian, the Spanish
watering-place, where in the season the Spanish aristocracy are so
numerous you can walk on their heads. I should want a chapter to do
justice to this glorious spot, so I must pass it by with just a nod of
friendly recognition, and continue my journey--a journey which was
nearly being interrupted in a manner which, much as I desire novel
experiences, I am heartily glad that I was spared.

My original idea was to return from Bayonne to Bordeaux, and then take
the Pacific mail steamer for Lisbon, working from thence to Seville and
Granada, and then to Madrid, and so up through Spain into France and
home again. I had even gone so far as to send to the shipping office for
the tickets. My messenger returned with the information that the ship
would be the _Valparaiso_, but that we could not have berths until the
agent received a telegram from Liverpool telling him if there were any
vacant. On the day before we were to return to Bordeaux, we received a
letter from the agent saying we could have berths. We packed up. We were
on the point of starting to Bordeaux, when, sitting in my armchair after
dinner, I fell asleep and had a dream. I dreamt that I was shipwrecked.
I felt the water closing over my head. I struck out and tried to swim,
but the great waves struck me and threw me back. I clung to spars; I
shouted for help. I went through a whole catalogue of agonies; and, just
as a big shark was opening his mouth to swallow me, I woke up with a
start. ‘It is time to go,’ said Albert Edward. ‘The omnibus is at the
door. Shall I send the luggage down?’ ‘No,’ I exclaimed, starting up and
rubbing my eyes. ‘No; a hundred times no! I’ve had a dream, and nothing
will tempt me to make that sea-trip now.’ A few days after, in the
reading-room of our hotel in Madrid, I picked up a newspaper, and saw
that the _Valparaiso_, the ship by which we should have sailed but for
that dream, had been wrecked in Vigo Bay, and that all the passengers’
luggage had been lost.

I am always anxious for adventures which will furnish material for my
books, but I very much prefer to rely upon my imagination for my
shipwrecks. A good many people have described earthquakes without being
in them, and I am sure I can give a good account of ‘an awful night at
sea’ without being taken off in a small boat and losing my luggage.

Instead of going by sea, we went by land, and the next day found us in
the sleeping-car _en route_ from Bayonne to Burgos, our first
halting-place on our way to Madrid. The French authorities arrange this
journey admirably. You arrive at Hendaye, the French frontier, at five
minutes past twelve, and here you have half an hour for luncheon. The
train then goes on, and reaches Irun in five minutes, where the Spanish
authorities, not to be outdone in politeness, give you an hour. It is a
battle between France and Spain which shall have the buffet money.
Seeing that you have an hour at Irun, I can in no other way account for
the absurdity of giving you half an hour at Hendaye. A run of two and a
quarter miles in an hour and a half is surely the best on record for a
special express train like the Paris-Madrid mail bound on a journey of
968 miles.

At Irun we entered on Spanish territory, Spanish customs, and Spanish
manners. We received the utmost courtesy at the station and in the
Custom House, and everywhere along the line. And we did it all with a
well-filled case of halfpenny cigars. No official in the world is so
polite or appreciates politeness so much as a Spanish one. The French
are artificially polite, the Spaniards are naturally so. Hats are
raised everywhere, faces are wreathed in smiles, bows are low and
stately. To the chiefs of stations, to Custom House officers, after a
few words of courteous inquiry, we offered a cigar. If we had offered
gold and precious stones our gift could not have been received with
greater sweetness and recognition. And for those few cigars we were
treated everywhere like princes. Gold-braided caps-in-hand,
stationmasters wished us a pleasant journey, and guards came and mounted
on the steps and peeped in and inquired as to our comfort. At the end of
the journey I really felt ashamed that we had received so much for so
little. On the return journey we are going to fill that cigar-case with
penny ones.

The run through the Pyrenees in the blazing sunshine was magnificent.
When the train stopped, high up upon the great mountains, we got out and
let our faces bronze, inhaled the splendid mountain air, and contrasted
the scene around us (it was Sunday afternoon) with the aspect of
Tottenham Court Road and Camden Town. We pitied the people in London,
and we wondered if they were having a fog and crouching over their fires
with the gas alight, and we made up our minds, when we were rich enough
to retire, to come and end our days in the sunshine of the Pyrenees. The
difficulty must be _to_ end your days there. Unless you go up to the top
of a precipice, and throw yourself deliberately over, it is difficult to
see what can kill you in such a splendidly healthy, bracing air--in a
land of perpetual life-giving sunshine.

The guard of our train was a very wonderful man, I have heard of a
sailor who had a wife in every port, but we almost came to the
conclusion that our guard had a wife at every station. Whenever the
train stopped there was a young woman waiting, who was instantly kissed
on both cheeks by our guard. Some of the ladies he kissed had little
boys and girls with them, and he kissed the children too. It was to us a
matter of much speculation as to what this constantly-recurring lady
waiting to be kissed by our guard could mean. It remains a mystery to
this hour. Perhaps he was one of a very large family, and his sisters
and his cousins and his aunts had scattered and settled all along the
line.

At Miranda we had ‘buffet’ again. It was a wonderful meal--real Spanish
cookery, everything done in oil; but it was by no means bad. The
wonderful thing about it was the way in which the passengers got through
a meal of ten courses in fifteen minutes by the clock. It was one plate
down and another up. The waiters actually galloped round the table
piling plates full of soup, fish, entrée, joint, fowl, salad, pastry,
cheese, and fruit before the astonished passengers. Heavens, how we ate!
How we finished one plate and pushed it aside and seized the full one by
our side! No changing knives and forks. It was just one wild waltz from
dish to dish, and when the bell rang and we rushed out to the train we
carried oranges and apples and figs and dates and biscuits in our hands.
I had an indigestion five minutes afterwards which has lasted up to now,
and which bids fair to remain with me until the end of my chequered
career.

The rest of the journey was performed in the dark. The only bit of
colour was made by our gens d’armes, who, with loaded rifles,
accompanied the train, and were changed at each station. All trains in
Spain carry two of these men--‘Civil Guards’ they are called--to protect
the passengers in case of attack. These men, a picked body, without fear
and without reproach, have cleared Spain of brigands. They are to Spain
what the Irish constabulary was once to Ireland. They are unbribable,
and have only one idea--duty. They are empowered to shoot at their own
discretion, and they are trusted not to make a mistake. There is no
arresting with them. A man taken red-handed, they put a bullet into.
Spanish justice is slow--a man sent for trial knows there are a hundred
ways of getting acquitted, and failing that of escaping from prison. So
the Spanish Civil Guard executes its own justice in a speedy and summary
manner. Murderers and brigands they kill first and try afterwards. These
men have made Spain safe for the traveller for the first time for many
hundreds of years.

Our halting-place was Burgos. Here we left the train, and began our
first experience of Spanish towns and Spanish hotel life. We had been
reading up our guide-books, and we alighted with doubt and dread. We
were told that the hotels were bad, and that the people were difficult
to deal with. But we had a little knowledge of the language, and we had
determined to conform literally to Spanish customs and to observe the
forms of Spanish etiquette, and so we hoped to fare better than the bulk
of English travellers who, in print and out of it, have made such a
parade of the drawbacks to a sojourn in Spain.

These Spanish customs are most interesting. They _must_ be observed by
anyone who wants to get on with the people. The usual British idea of
looking upon natives as ‘a lot of foreigners’ won’t do here. If you
insist upon being English and doing as you would in England you will
have a very bad time among a people who are the proudest and the most
sensitive in Europe. Cast your British prejudices to the wind, and try
to be Spanish, and you will carry home with you pleasant memories which
will last you all your life. We decided to be Spanish down to the
ground, to treat every man as a grandee, and to praise everything we
saw with all the adjectives we could find the Spanish for in our
dictionary.

In the first place, we commenced to practise worshipping each other’s
hats. The hat in Spain is elevated almost to the position of an idol.
When anyone comes to see you, you place his hat in an armchair all to
itself. You take it from him at the door. With loving care you bear it
across the room, and then, with many flowery speeches, you deposit the
sacred tile gently on the right-hand chair of honour. All Spanish
sitting-rooms are arranged for this ceremony. They contain no furniture,
as a rule, but a sofa, a console table, and some chairs, and this gives
them a bare appearance, which is not decreased by the entire absence of
a fireplace.

The sofa in the Spanish room is put against the wall in the right-hand
corner. In front of it on each side are two chairs, one an armchair, and
the other an ordinary one. The sofa and the four chairs are so arranged
as to form three sides of a square. The sofa is for you and your guests,
the armchairs are for their hats, and the smaller chairs for ornament.
This ‘reception of the hat’ sounds like an exaggeration, but it is a
ceremony which is observed with the greatest punctiliousness all through
Spain. My companion and I practised it in our sitting-room for hours.
First he knocked at the door and pretended to be a Spanish hidalgo, and
I received him, took his hat and conducted it, walking backwards, to the
armchair. Then I recited verses in its honour, kissed its brim, and
bestowed titles upon it. Then he received me and _my_ hat, and we
buttered each other up in our best Spanish and bowed to each other till
our backs ached. We very soon got perfect in the art of receiving
gentlemen visitors, and, of course, that was all we wanted, as we were
not likely to have any lady visitors.

When you go to a lady’s house there are terrible ceremonies to be gone
through. When you rise to leave you are bound to say, ‘A los piés de
usted’ (this last word is always written thus, ‘V.’ simply, in Spanish),
‘señora.’ ‘My lady, I place myself at your feet.’ Then the lady says,
‘Beso á V.’ (usted that V. means) ‘la mano, caballero.’ ‘I kiss your
hand, sir.’ ‘Vaya V. con Dios que V. lo pase bien.’ ‘May you depart with
God and continue well.’ Then you have to answer to that, ‘Quede V. con
Dios.’ ‘May you remain with God.’ And so you go, your hat being handed
to you as if it were a new-born baby.

The salutations and greetings and farewells among the common people are
many of them very poetical. When I left my first Spanish hotel, the
waiter and the chambermaid came out with the landlord to see us off. My
companion and I laid ourselves figuratively at the chambermaid’s feet;
we invoked all the blessings of Heaven on the landlord’s head, and, in
accordance with Spanish etiquette, we expressed a hope that the waiter
might remain with God. The group returned our adieux, and the little
chambermaid made us a sweet reverence in the Andalusian manner (she was
of Seville, was our ‘chica'), and said, ‘Good-bye, your lordships; may
we all meet again some day in God’s big parlour.’ Now, I think that was
very pretty--don’t you?

‘Chica’ means sweetheart. It is another pretty custom in Spanish inns to
call the waitress ‘chica.’ It sounds odd at first to English
ears--‘Sweetheart, bring me a glass of beer;’ ‘Sweetheart, a cup of
chocolate;’ ‘Sweetheart, do you call these boots blacked, or have you
given them to the dog to lick?’ When an inn is full, and everybody is
shouting for his ‘sweetheart,’ the Englishman unused to the form of
address, but knowing a little of the language, wonders what it means.
But he soon drops into the habit, and addresses the dark-eyed Spanish
muchacha as ‘chica,’ too.

Spain is saturated with Moorish manners and customs. The Eastern custom
of clapping the hands, instead of calling the waiter or attendant,
prevails everywhere. You never hear a sound of ‘Waiter!’ in a café, only
here and there two sharp short claps of the hand. The effect is
pleasing, and it saves your throat considerably.

But I am keeping you waiting a long time before taking you to see
Burgos, and I have told you nothing about hotel life.

The first things that strike you as you enter an old Spanish town at
night are the dark and mysterious-looking men gliding along in the dark
shadows, cloaked to the eyes. Nearly all Spaniards still wear the old
‘capa,’ or long black mantle, and the folds of this are so arranged as
to completely muffle the face, leaving only the eyes visible. The
Castilians muffle like this in the hottest weather. They dread a breath
of fresh air. But it makes them look awfully like murderers, and it gave
us quite a creepy sensation as we plodded through old, decaying Burgos,
late at night, and came suddenly on men muffled in black to the eyes at
the street corners. But having occasion to ask one to direct us to the
hotel, he instantly flung his cloak from his face and disclosed his
features. This is another Spanish custom. If you keep your cloak over
your face when you stop anyone, or when you address anyone, you are at
once supposed to be a bad character, or an assassin, and the man talking
to you clasps his knife or his revolver, and gets ready for you.

We reached the hotel in Burgos in safety, and walked upstairs, and found
a gentleman smoking a cigarette in an easy-chair, who rose and bowed,
and told us to choose what rooms we liked and to make ourselves at
home, and God be with us; and then he sat down and lit another
cigarette. We chose our rooms, then went down and bargained with the
gentleman for so much a day. All hotels in Spain lodge and feed you at
so much a day, and you have to make the contract on arrival. There are
no extras when once you have agreed to the price. We arranged at 50
reals a day each (a real is 2½d.). For this we had our rooms and the
following meals: The desayuno in the bedroom, a cup of chocolate and a
piece of sour bread; the almuerzo, or lunch, at eleven; the comida, or
dinner, at seven. The Spanish lunch begins generally with eggs cooked in
various fashions, then a roast, _then the fish_, very highly flavoured,
then salad and the sweets and dessert. The fish is always served after
meat. The dishes for dinner are few, but curious, and the cooking is
excellent for those with cosmopolitan palates. The dishes cooked in oil
are not deserving the opprobrium heaped upon them by bigoted British
guide-book writers. The Spaniards do not over-eat like the French, and
the meals are not long ones. But between every course at _table d’hôte_
Spaniards smoke a cigarette. It is an excellent idea for filling in the
waits; but English ladies don’t like it. There were no ladies and no
English at our first _table d’hôte_, so we adopted the custom of the
country.

Burgos is a grand old city, famous in history for many things, but for
nothing so much as being the city of the Cid. You know who the great Cid
was, or you ought to, so I won’t tell you. We saw his bones, and the
bones of Ximena, his wife--the real bones and the real skulls, in a real
coffin, in a room in the Prefecture hung with banners and patriotic
emblems. Of course we saw the cathedral and the ancient gates and the
old Palace of the Inquisition, now fallen to ruins. We stood and smoked
cigarettes in the grass-grown courtyard, where many a hero had been done
to death, where the hideous tortures devised by human fiends were
carried out in the blasphemed name of God, and we leaned against old
crumbling pillars that had looked down upon scenes of the most
unutterable human anguish. All is but as a dream now, yet the old stones
and pillars remain to this day, and cry out against the infamy of that
dark and cruel era in the blood-stained annals of Spain. The rooms
around, which look down upon the courtyard, are let to the poor at a
shilling or two a month. The Palace of the Inquisition is now a slum,
and from the windows where monarchs and grandees and Grand Inquisitors
looked down hang the yellow rags of beggars and the blue sheets of poor
labourers drying in the sun.

Burgos at night is the absolutely dullest place I ever saw in my life,
and that is saying a good deal. Some Spanish gentlemen who had made
friends with us at the hotel took us to a café, and we spent the evening
in getting all the information out of them that we could. The theatre
was shut, there was no music-hall, no entertainment of any kind. There
is no trade in Burgos, and how the people live is a mystery. But for the
military the place would be a city of the dead. And yet it is the
capital of proud Castile, and was at one time the residence of kings. At
ten at night I have the quiet deserted town almost to myself. I want to
tire myself out and make myself sleep if I can, for my old enemy
insomnia dogs my footsteps still. I smoke a cigarette under the shadow
of the great cathedral. I cross the bridge of the dried-up Arlanzon (all
the rivers of Spain have been emptied in consequence of the
rapidly-increasing export of Spanish wines), and I linger by the ruins
of the house of the mighty Cid. Everywhere I am alone save for some
cloaked and muffled figure that steals past me now and then, stealthily
and silently as a man bent on a mission of midnight assassination.

I am not afraid. Albert Edward is always close by me with a sword-stick,
a revolver, and a pair of fists that, though they have not much skill,
would be extremely useful in splitting pavingstones or breaking heads;
and, better than all, the old Sereno, or night-watchman, who, with his
lantern, his pointed staff, and his whistle, paces every street. The
Sereno has plenty of work at night in a Spanish town. In addition to his
duties as a watchman, he calls the hours. Quaint and weird upon the
night air floats the old watchman’s cry, ‘Ten o’clock at night, and
all’s well!’ ‘Las diez y sereno!’ It is from this last word, which means
‘All serene!’ that the watchman takes his name of ‘Sereno.’

He sees a good deal of the night side of (Spanish) nature, does the old
Sereno. He passes my lady’s balcony at midnight, and sees the cloaked
lover underneath twanging his guitar. He sees the lights in the rooms in
the small hours when the watchers of the sick keep their long vigils,
and he is the first to tumble over the bodies of the wounded and the
murdered at the street corners. Then his whistle rings out clear and
shrill over the silence, and the police come up and bear the body away.
Assassinations are still common enough in Spain. Every street-corner is
famous for somebody who was done to death at it. The lower classes and
many of the middle classes still carry the murderous ‘navaja,’ and
justice rarely overtakes the midnight assassin. Some of the murders are
political, but most of them are ‘all on account of Eliza.’ The Spanish
men are furiously jealous, and the Spanish women are terrible flirts.
The national custom of concealing your features entirely at night lends
itself splendidly to the use of the knife at dark street-corners.

We left Burgos by the night mail for Madrid. At the hotel they gave us
an omnibus. The roof was so low that we had to crawl in on our hands and
knees and lie flat on the cushions till we got to the station. There we
were the only passengers, but the station-master (another halfpenny
cigar did it) took us to his own private room and gave us armchairs in
front of his private fire while we waited. He took our hats and placed
them in royal state on more armchairs, and when the train arrived he
personally conducted us to it, recommended us to the guard, and,
bestowing on us all the titles of the noblest grandees of Old Castile,
expressed a devout desire that he, too, might have the honour of
renewing our acquaintance in God’s big parlour.



CHAPTER IV.

MADRID--BULL FIGHTS, THEATRES, CAFÉS, AND COCIDO.


The journey from Burgos to Madrid takes ten hours by the express. There
is only one good train a day to anywhere in Spain. When it doesn’t start
at eight at night it starts at eight in the morning. This is a dreadful
nuisance to people who object equally to travelling all night and to
getting up at six in the morning. All trains, except the one express,
are fearfully slow. You can take twenty-two hours to do a hundred miles
on some of the lines.

The Spaniards have a couplet which runs thus:--‘El aire de Madrid es tan
sotil Que mata à un hombre y no apaga un candil.’ This, in plain
English, means that the subtle air of Madrid, which won’t extinguish a
candle, will put out a man’s life. For two or three days in Madrid I was
up in the stirrups. I think I have been ill in all the principal towns
of the United Kingdom and the Continent; but in Madrid, for the first
time for many years, I felt absolutely well. The dry, exhilarating air
suited me admirably. I did an endless round of sightseeing by day, I
went to three or four theatres at night, and I stopped in the
magnificent cafés until the waiters began to pile the chairs on the
tables and put on their hats and cloaks to go home to their families.
And when I got back to my hotel I sat up in my room and wrote till the
small hours. With all this exertion, I was able to get up early the next
morning, with a beautiful complexion and a perfect temper.

But with my first bull-fight a change came o’er the spirit of my dream.
On Sunday all Madrid crowded to the great open arena, ‘La Plaza de
Toros.’ On Monday all Madrid was coughing and sneezing, and I outcoughed
and outsneezed them all. The stone seats of the bull-ring and the boxes
open to all the winds of heaven are dear to the hearts of doctors and
undertakers. The sun beats down upon an excited multitude, and it is not
till nearly sunset that the last bull dies. Then out the great populace
pours, and takes a chill at the most dangerous hour of the day. I caught
a champion cold at the bull-fight, and it was no consolation to me that
everywhere I went during the next two or three days there was a chorus
of coughs, and that all my neighbours were as miserable as myself. At
the theatre on Monday evening the play I witnessed was absolutely
performed in dumb show. The actors strove in vain to make themselves
audible over the perpetual hacking and barking of an audience in the
agonies of asthma, the inconveniences of influenza, the convulsions of
catarrh, and the breath-battle of bronchitis.

The arrangements at Spanish theatrical performances are unique. They
must be seen to be believed. But before I come to the theatres I have to
get through the bull-fight, and before I come to the bull-fight I should
like to say a word or two about the illustrious gentlemen who get their
living by it, and who are commonly called toreros. This term includes
the espadas, the picadors, and the banderilleros, whose various parts in
the performance will presently be made clear to you.

The profession of bull-fighter is in Spain the royal road to fortune.
There are half a dozen men, not yet middle-aged, who have become
millionaires by killing bulls, and their names are idolized wherever the
Spanish language is spoken. Their society is courted by the highest
nobles in the land, and they are _au mieux_ with many a fair and
aristocratic dame. The leading matadors ('espadas’ is the technical
name) receive for a single afternoon’s show sums varying from £200 to
£500. They star in the provinces on sharing terms, and when you take
into account the fact that a good ‘house’ at a bull-fight means between
two and three thousand pounds, you can imagine what these starring
engagements are worth. After they have conquered Spain they go to South
America, and there some of them make sums which would cause even Sir
Henry Irving and Madame Sarah Bernhardt to open their eyes to their
fullest extent.

Mazzantini, who at the time of my visit was starring in Havannah, was
the idol of the hour. Long telegrams were published in the principal
Spanish papers announcing his magnificent receptions, and describing in
‘the language of the ring’ his feats with the bulls. Some time ago
Mazzantini, who as a bull-fighter makes £20,000 a year, was a porter on
the Great Northern Railway of Spain. He was strong and handsome and full
of pluck, and he said to himself, ‘I want to make money. In Spain there
are only two ways--to be a tenor or a bull-fighter. I can’t sing, but I
know I could kill a bull.’ He began as one of the gang of assistants at
small shows; he soon acquired skill, and to-day whenever he travels his
is a royal progress; his diamonds are the envy of prima donnas, he has
his town mansion and his shooting-box and his villa at the seaside, and
the reigning belles of Society send him love-letters. Frascuelo, who has
now retired, being rich beyond the dreams of avarice, was nearly being
made a marquis by King Amadeus.

To read of these riches and honours, to see the receptions given to
these princes of the ring by all grades of society, you would think that
a bull-fight was a magnificent spectacle, and the matadors were men of
splendid bravery and consummate skill.

You had better sit a Corrida de Toros out with me from beginning to end,
and then you will be able to form your own judgment. There is one thing,
however, you must do first, and that is, get rid entirely of your
English views with regard to cruelty to animals. You will see plenty of
that; but if you argue with a Spaniard about it he will tell you that
you are quite as cruel to animals, only in another way, in England. You
will reply that in your sports where the death of an animal is involved
the animal has ‘a chance.’ In bull-fighting the animals have none.

But if you are wise, you will not argue at all. You will take a
bull-fight as it is, and come away thankful that it is not the national
sport of England. There have been many attempts to revive it in the
South of France, and the French would, I fancy, take kindly to it, if it
were once made legal, and could be carried out with all the pomp and
splendour of Spain.

All Englishmen do not dislike bull-fighting. Many Englishmen who live in
Spain follow it enthusiastically; and a young Irish gentleman of fortune
at one time took to the bull-ring professionally, and attained a certain
amount of distinction.

Madrid is covered with red bills announcing a bull-fight for Sunday. The
bills are curious reading and interesting to the student of the language
of Cervantes. Here is one of them:

                       PLAZA DE TOROS DE MADRID

                        CORRIDA EXTRAORDINARIA

             QUE SE VERIFICARÁ (SI EL TIEMPO NO LO IMPIDE)

                     EL DOMINGO 6 DE MARZO DE 1887

              PRESIDIRÀ LA PLAZA LA AUTORIDAD COMPETENTE


                          ORDEN DE LA FUNCIÓN


=1.º= CUATRO TOROS de puntas, defectuosos, de las ganaderías y con las
divisas siguientes: DOS, con azul turquí, de la acreditada de DON MANUEL
BAÑUELOS Y SALCEDO, de Colmenar Viejo, y DOS, con blanca, de la de DON
ALEJANDRO ARROYO (antes MAZPULE), de Miraflores de la Sierra.


                              LIDIADORES

     =Picadores.=--Francisco Parente (_El Artillero_), Francisco Coca,
     Antonio Bejarano (_El Cano_) y Mariano Ledesma (_El Morenito_), sin
     que en el case de inutilizarse los cuatro pueda exigirse que salgan
     otros.


                                ESPADAS

                RAFAEL GUERRA (GUERRITA), de Córdoba
                JULIO APARICI (FABRILO), de Valencia

     =Banderilleros.=--Miguel Almendro, Rafael Rodriguez (_Mojino_), José
     Martínez (_Pito_), Rafael Sánchez (_Bebe_), Rafael Llorens y Miguel
     Burguet (_Pajalarga_).

     =Sobresaliente de espada.=--Miguel Almendro.

     =Puntillero.=--Antonio Guerra.

=Y 2.º= CUATRO NOVILLOS EMBOLADOS para los aficionados que gusten bajar al
redondel á capearlos.

          La corrida empezará á las TRES Y MEDIA en punto
          Las puertas de la Plaza se abrirán dos horas antes

     Se observarán con todo rigor las prevenciones vigentes para esta
     clase de espectáculos.

     La banda de música de Baleares tocará antes de empezar la corrida y
     en los intermedios.


                      PRECIOS DE LAS LOCALIDADES

                                                             PESETAS.
                   { Barreras                                   3
_Tendidos_         { Contrabarreras y delanteras                2.50
                   { Asiento sin numeracion                     1.50

_Gradas_           { Delanteras                                 3
                   { Filas 1.ª, 2.ª, 3.ª, 4.ª y Tabloncillos    1.25

_Andanadas_        { Delanteras                                 3
                   { Filas 1.ª, 2.ª, 3.ª, 4.ª y Tabloncillos    1

_Meseta del Toril_ { Delanteras                                 3
                   { 1.ª y 2.ª filas                            1.50

_Entrada para palco_                                            2

     Toda ocalidad que exceda de una peseta pagará diez centimos de
     impuesto.


ADVERTENCIAS

Los billetes se venderán en el Despacho establecido en la calle de
Sevilla, el _Viernes_ 4 del corriente, de una á cinco de la tarde, el
_Sábado_ 5 de diez de la mañana hasta las cinco de la tarde, y el
_Domingo_ 6, día de la corrida, de neuve de la mañana á tres y media de
la tarde, y en los de la Plaza de Toros desde la una y media en
adelante.

Después de tomados los billetes no se admitirán en los Despachos sino en
el caso de que se suspenda la función antes de comenzada; no se darán
_contraseñas de salida_ y los =ninos que no sean de pecho necesitan
billete=.

No se correrán más torros ni novillos que los anunciados.

No se permitirá estar entre barreras sino á los precisos operarios, ni
bajar de los tendidos hasta que el último toro esté enganchado al tiro
de mulas.

Se prohibe bajar á torear los novillos embolados á los niños y ancianos,
á fin de evitar desgracias, así como que lleven palos, pinchos ú otros
objetos con que puedan perjudicar al ganado.

Four bulls are to be killed, each four years old. Their names are
Bailador, Cigarrero, Manquito, and Primoroso. The ‘stars’ on this
occasion are the two espadas, Guerrita and Fabrilio. The first man is a
famous matador; the second a beginner. Having made the acquaintance of a
retired bull-fighter--an affable, gray-haired old gentleman, who still
wears the chignon and pigtail, which are _de rigueur_, and by which you
can always tell a bull-fighter in the crowd--I ask him to accompany me,
and explain the points of the performance. He readily consents, and he
secures me a private box next to the box of the president--the
gentleman, generally a member of the Town Council, who is the official
master of the ceremonies, judge, referee, and several other things
rolled into one. I ought to mention that, the arena being open to the
sky, one-half of the spectators have to sit with the blazing sun in
their faces. This causes one side to be dearer than the other. There are
two prices--the sol and the sombra. Seats in the shade are 50 per cent.
the dearer. When I enter my box in the great arena, the spectacle is a
magnificent one. Sixteen thousand people are crowded into the building,
and a fourth of them are women. There are elegantly-dressed ladies in
the boxes, and in the cheaper seats are gaily-attired women and girls of
the lower class. Many of the women have brought their babies with them
to see the show. Everybody is on the tiptoe of expectation. As we enter
our box, my friend the bull-fighter has a friendly greeting from the
mob. In the next box is a duke--a grandee of Spain of the first
class--and a general renowned in war. Both of them lean over and shake
hands effusively with my friend the bull-killer. Presently the president
and his suite enter the official box. Then a trumpet sounds, and two
alguazils, dressed in black velvet suits and plumed hats, ride into the
ring on gaily-caparisoned steeds. They wheel round, face the president,
and bow. The president then bids them summon the bull-fighters. Off go
the alguazils across the ring with the message. The gates of the barrier
are flung open, and a grand procession enters, and marches across the
arena to salute the president. This is the prettiest part of the show.
The costumes of the twenty or thirty toreros are brilliant and
beautiful. Silver and gold, and yellow and crimson and blue are their
jackets and breeches; their hats, of black velvet, are most picturesque;
and their mantles, worn in a peculiar fashion, are such as the courtiers
of a king might be proud to wear on gala days. Terrific applause breaks
from the huge crowd of spectators as popular favourites advance with the
band. About six of the men are mounted on wretched, broken-down horses.
These men carry long lances, and are the picadors. You will see what
they do presently.

The procession having saluted the president, the members of it scatter
themselves about the arena, and prepare for business. Another trumpet
sounds. The alguazil, in black velvet, rides up again and salutes the
president. The president from his box flings him the key of the cells
where the bulls are imprisoned, and he catches it in his hat. He hands
the key to a torero, who opens the door of a kind of stable opposite,
called the toril, and, out of the darkness into the light, out of the
silence into the roar of thousands of voices, rushes an infuriated bull,
full of life and spirit and courage--a magnificent beast, with terrible
horns, already goaded to fierceness by sharp spikes which have been run
into him in his prison.

He enters the arena alone. Everybody except the picadors leaps the
barriers, and lets him have a run to himself. We are all on the tiptoe
of expectation to see how the bull will behave. We can judge by his
manner at first what sort of sport he will give. Now several of the
toreros, mantle in hand, take their places, and begin to bait the bull
to make him lively, and then the first act of the tragedy begins.
Unfortunately for the foreigner who _wants_ to see sport in a
bull-fight, the first act is the most disgusting and dastardly. The
picadors--the men with lances, mounted on wretched horses--have it to
themselves. The picador, sitting bolt upright on his horse, charges the
bull, and digs the spear into him just to tickle him up. The picador
then prepares to receive the return charge of the bull. He turns his
horse broadside to the bull (the poor horses have their eyes bandaged on
one side), and calmly allows the infuriated beast to plunge its sharp
horns right into the side of the steed. No attempt is made to save the
horse. It is only used by the picador as a barrier between himself and
the bull’s horns.

If the bull catches the horse fairly underneath, the sight is a hideous
one. The wretched animal staggers and falls over, the life blood pouring
from it. The audience shouts with delight. The men with the cloaks rush
and turn the bull from the prostrate heap, and then pick the picador up.
He always falls cleverly, and his legs, being encased in iron, are
rarely hurt either by the bull’s horns or the falling horse. If the
horse is only wounded, it is beaten on to its legs again with sticks,
and the wound is stuffed with tow. It is remounted, beaten, and dragged
up to the bull to be gored again. On the day of my visit, I saw a horse
with its entrails hanging out actually dragged up, cruelly beaten, and
remounted. This was considered glorious sport by the Spaniards. As they
rode that poor disembowelled beast round the arena again, the spectacle
was so hideous that I went to the corner of my box. ‘When that horse is
dead, tell me, and I’ll look again,’ I said to my friend the
bull-fighter. He laughed, but the next minute he leaned across to the
president and said something. The president smiled and raised his hat to
me, and then called down an order to one of the ring attendants. A
moment afterwards the picador dismounted, and the staggering, bleeding
horse was mercifully killed with a blow of the ‘puntilla.’ I saved one
poor beast a few moments’ agony, at any rate, that day.

I saw four bulls killed, and the bulls between them killed seven horses.
It was always a great relief to me when the bugle sounded, and the
horses still living were led out of the ring. Each bull has so many
minutes to live, and goes through three acts. The first with the
picadors, the second with the banderilleros, and the third with the
espada or matador. A bugle sounds the ‘time’ which terminates each act
of the tragedy. I was always glad when the first act was over and the
horses were done with. But my delight at seeing one or two go out alive
was considerably modified when I was informed that the poor beasts would
be kept half-starved until the following Sunday, and then brought out to
be gored again. Many of the horses I saw were only fit for the knacker,
but they had been good in their time. Some of them still retained fine
action, and had probably, in the days of their strength, drawn the
carriage of some aristocratic dame now looking down upon the ruthless
slaughter. The horses are in no way necessary for the bull-fight. It is
wanton cruelty to bring them in to be gored; but that is a part of the
show which the Spaniards love best. When a bull has killed five or six
horses, as sometimes happens, and there is a delay in bringing in
others, the people go mad, and yell at the president, ‘More horses! more
horses!’

After the picadors have ridden out, the banderilleros commence on the
bull. Their feat is a dangerous one. They have to go up to him and
stick long darts, ornamented with coloured paper, into his neck. Both
darts must be stuck to a nicety side by side. The banderillero must wait
till the bull comes full tilt at him, stick the darts in, and slip
aside. This is a feat requiring perfect aim, a quick eye, and a steady
foot. While this is going on the toreros continue to draw the bull now
this way and now that with their mantles. When, maddened by the darts
hanging into his bleeding neck, he dashes at them, they have to run for
their lives, and leap the barrier. By this time the poor beast has been
baited and worried and chased and chivied until he is fairly tired. Now
the bugle sounds for the last act, and all is intense excitement.

The espada advances to the president’s box, takes off his hat, and says
‘Señor President, here is to you, to your family, and all Spaniards.’ He
then says that he will kill the bull. All the assistants retire. The
espada takes a long Toledo sword and his red cloth, and advances to the
bull. Man and beast are alone in the great ring. Intelligence and skill
are pitted for the first time in the contest against brute force and
passion. But daring, graceful, and clever as the matadors are, the
chances are a thousand to one in their favour. The bull--poor
beast--always runs at the cloth and not at the man. The matador’s real
danger is a slip when running from the bull. But the toreros, or
assistants, are all watching, and at the slightest symptom of danger
they rush at the bull and turn him, or envelop his head with their
cloaks. Fight he never so bravely, the bull is doomed. He must be
killed--that is the rule of the game.

There are a score of names for the different passes and feints and
tricks the matador performs with the bull for a few minutes, until he
raises his sword in token that he intends to kill it. He baits the bull
now this way and now that with the red cloth until he gets the animal to
run fairly at him. Then he thrusts the long sword just between the left
shoulder and the blade. If the thrust is true and well delivered, the
bull falls on his knees. His proud head is raised in defiance for a
moment, and then he falls over on his side dead. When the blow does not
kill him, the butchery is completed by one of the toreros with the
‘puntilla.’ There are many ways in which the espada receives the last
charge of the bull. Some are dangerous, and are only practised by the
great masters of the art. Some of the matadors will even dispense with
the red cloth, called in the parlance of the ring ‘muletta,’ and defy
the bull with folded arms. These feats call forth deafening applause.

When the bull is dead, a team of gaily-bedecked mules enters, and drags
out first the dead horses, and then the dead bull. The sand is raked
over the pools and tracks of blood, and another bull is turned into the
arena to go through the same performance. The second bull that I saw was
furious at first, but was baited at last into absolute terror. Long
before it came to the turn of the matador the poor brute was bellowing
piteously, and trying to leap the barriers and escape. At last he got
behind a dead horse, and, making a rampart of it, gored its carcass
again and again. It took the whole staff five minutes to get him out
into the arena to be killed.

After the bull-fight proper was over, I witnessed a curious spectacle.
As the last of the four bulls fell to the ground dead, hundreds of the
spectators leaped over the barriers into the arena and took off their
cloaks. Then a young bull with knobs on its horns was turned loose among
them for them to bait. Hundreds of lads became amateur toreros, and
practised the art on the harmless animal. He knocked down a dozen and
tossed one or two, to the intense amusement of the spectators. I left
young Madrid thus amusing itself, and came out of the Plaza de Toros a
wiser man as to bull-fights and a much sadder one. If I live fifty years
in Spain, I never want to see such another cruel ‘game of blood.’

The bull-ring is _the_ amusement of Spain, but the theatre is well
patronized. I always study the theatres of foreign countries when I get
a chance, and the Spanish theatre is one of the most curious I have
seen. The Opera or Teatro Real is the principal, and is patronized by
the aristocracy. Gayarré is the star there at present. The Teatro
Español is devoted to the legitimate drama. The other theatres which
play operettas, farces, and topical reviews are the Apolo, the Princesa,
the Variedades, the Lara, the Eslava (so called after a priest who left
the money to build it), and the Novedades. I will deal with this latter
class first.

At nearly all Spanish theatres the performance commences at half-past
eight, and is divided into four parts, each of which is called a
‘funcion.’ You pay for each of these--so much for entrance and so much
for your seat. Thus, when you go to the Apolo, the performance commences
at half-past eight with ‘La Gran Via.’ This is over at a quarter-past
nine, and out you all go. A new audience now comes in and sees the first
act of ‘Cadiz,’ an operetta, which terminates at ten. Out you all go
again, and a fresh audience comes in and sees the second act of ‘Cadiz,’
which is over at a quarter to eleven. Out we all go again, and a fourth
audience fills the theatre for another performance of ‘La Gran Via,’
which terminates about half-past eleven.

There is a prison scene in ‘La Gran Via.’ Several Vias are represented.
One of them is called the ‘Via de la Liberdad,’ and it shows the side of
a prison wall.

Some time before I arrived in Spain there had been a military revolt,
and six sergeants who had taken a prominent part in the insurrection
were confined in a State prison on the charge of high treason,
but--owing to the notoriously lax discipline of Spanish prisons--the
sergeants very shortly afterwards managed to make their escape, and
eventually they succeeded in crossing the Pyrenees into France.

The escape of the sergeants is a standing joke among Spaniards of every
shade of political opinion, and the scene in which the six sergeants are
seen scudding along the prison wall, called the ‘Via de la Liberdad,’ is
always received with tremendous roars of laughter, and it is probably
the main cause of the great success of ‘La Fiesta de la Gran Via.’

One day a governor of a gaol who went to a bull-fight was astonished to
see several of his prisoners who were under sentence of death enjoying
themselves at the spectacle. There is always a golden key to a Spanish
prison, and you can generally get a day or a night out if you are on
good terms with the officials, and give your word of honour that you
will come back again. I dare say a good many people will credit me with
giving an extra throw to the hatchet, a stronger pull than usual at the
long-bow; but the truth of my prison story is amply borne out by a
sensational crime which has startled all Spain, shaken the Puerta del
Sol to its foundation, brought lumps of the Generaliffe rolling down the
Alhambra hill, caused the Alcazar of Seville to contemplate suicide in
the Guadalquivir, and shaken up the coffins of the Kings of Spain in the
gloomy Pantheon of the Escorial.

One night an old lady was found murdered in Madrid. She had been first
killed, and then saturated with petroleum and set on fire, but the fire
had gone out before it had done its work, and the wounds which had
caused death were visible. I need not repeat all the incidents, but
after suspicion falling on various persons, the crime has at last been
brought home to the old lady’s son, who was supposed at the time the
murder was committed to be a prisoner in close confinement in the Madrid
gaol.

Here is a shilling shocker with a vengeance. The young gentleman had, it
was proved, actually got out of prison with the connivance of the
authorities, spent the night at liberty, and returned early in the
morning very much the worse for liquor. Yet not a word was said by the
officials of the place who knew the facts, because they knew it would
get them into hot water. The story reads like an invention of the
romancer, but it is only a series of facts. Spain still remains one of
the most remarkable countries in Europe, and its manners and customs are
more worthy of the ‘Arabian Nights’ than modern history.

It was at one of the minor theatres that I heard one of the performers
imitate an actor with a peculiar voice and mannerism. The audience
recognised the imitation, and encored it again and again. ‘Ah,’ said I
to myself, ‘Spain has its Henry Irving. I must find him out.’ I made my
inquiries, and the result was that I booked a stall to sit out a
four-act Spanish drama at the Teatro Español written by one of the great
dramatists of to-day, Don José Echegaray, and entitled ‘Haroldo el
Normando.’ When the principal actor, Rafael Calvo, stepped upon the
stage and gave off his first speech, I recognised the original of the
caricature in a moment, and I knew by the reception and the bursts of
applause that I was seeing Spain’s favourite tragedian. Calvo’s acting
and declamation were splendid, but his voice was disagreeable; his
gestures were natural, but his mannerisms were marked enough to enable
me to give a good imitation of him after one visit to the theatre.

Calvo, who is only a little over thirty, is not a handsome man, but he
is very intense and powerful, and is the great exponent of the modern
_natural_ school. His great rival is Antonio Vico, who is of the old and
stilted school. Vico also has a bad voice, a defect from which many of
the Spanish actors suffer.

At many points in the play the ladies wept and the gentlemen used their
pocket-handkerchiefs. The mounting and dresses were beneath contempt,
and there was not a line of comedy or a laugh from beginning to end of
the play.

The audience was not a large one, considering the size and sumptuous
embellishments of the theatre. I inquired of a Spanish friend why the
legitimate drama was not better patronized. He told me that there was
never a great house when Echegaray was the author. Ladies were afraid of
him. His plays were so dreadfully miserable, they cried for a week after
seeing them. He would spring scenes of horror on his audience without a
moment’s preparation. Suddenly the scene would change, and you would see
a mother weeping over two dead children on the stage. Nothing that could
harrow the feelings was spared, and the author persisted in leaving
everybody miserable at the end. After a new play by Echegaray everyone
in Madrid asks, ‘Well, how many deaths are there in it?’ He is a grand
writer, full of nervous force and poetic thought, but his plays make
people so wretched that those who do not enjoy the luxury of a good cry
stop away. Everybody says, ‘What a splendid writer!’ The newspapers laud
him to the skies. The critics point to him as a man who maintains the
prestige of Spanish dramatic literature. But the Spanish people, like
the English people, decline to take out their theatrical amusement in
essays and sermons delivered from the stage. They go to the theatre to
be amused, not to study literature, and so, in spite of the abuse of the
critics, who are some of them authors themselves of neglected ten-act
tragedies in blank verse, the Spaniards flock to operettas, farces,
comedies, reviews, medleys, pieces of any sort so long as they are
laughable or interesting, and they leave the legitimate drama and the
plays of misery by Señor Echegaray to the amateur and professional
critics, who think, because they choose to sit at a theatre as in a
church, that there should be no more cakes and ale.

But to return to the Spanish custom of taking a play at an act a night.
Of course you may wish to see a play through in one evening. In this
case you buy tickets for the second and third ‘funcion,’ and keep your
seat. A man comes round between each act and collects the tickets for
the next. Say you want to see the whole four ‘funcions’ out, you
purchase four tickets. The ticket is a slip of paper--half of it is for
your numbered seat, another half your entrance ticket. You must buy four
entrance tickets and four tickets for your seat to entitle you to sit
out the whole performance. The tickets are different colours, so that
the checktakers may recognise at once for which funcion they are issued.
The first audience comes in with green tickets, the second with pink,
the third with white, and the fourth with yellow. The great draws at the
present moment at three of the theatres are local reviews in rhyme, and
full of topical allusions. The singing and dancing are good, and the
points are taken up all over the house in a manner which would gladden
the hearts of our burlesque writers. ‘La Fiesta de la Gran Via,’ which
is being played at the Eslava, has beaten all previous records. I
assisted at the 41,500th performance! Where are our long runs after
that?

The piece is played twice a night, and on Sundays and fête days, of
which there are scores in Spain, four times--twice at the morning and
twice at the evening performance.

The anti-Conservative demonstrations in Madrid and other Spanish towns,
which have been lately of such a violent character as to make some
people think we were on the eve of another Spanish revolution, are
really volcanic in their origin. The Spaniards are not a very
demonstrative people. As a rule, if you offered them a perpetual pension
they wouldn’t utter a shout or wave a hat. But every now and then,
suddenly and unexpectedly, without any previous warning, Castilian pride
and Moorish stolidity give way to the wildest excitement and the most
utter disregard of the conventionalities of life. Be the offending party
a Cabinet Minister, a bishop, or a bull, the Spaniard has but one cry,
‘Muerta!'--death! It does not mean all that it says. It is the language
of the bull-ring carried into public life, and that is all. The
bull-ring enriches Spanish language as the racecourse enriches the
English.

Madrid is very much like a volcano on the eve of an eruption. Day and
night there is a seething mass of cloaked gentry promenading the streets
and squares in the eager hope of something turning up. The Puerta del
Sol is as much alive at two in the morning as our Mansion House corner
is at two in the afternoon. When the Spaniards go to bed is a mystery.
Special editions of the evening papers come out in Madrid at 1 a.m., and
small boys of the street-Arab type yell their ‘Speshal ‘Dishuns’ under
your window till three, and if anything is on, until four. This
all-night shouting and the ceaseless traffic no one who has the
misfortune to sleep in a room looking on to the Puerta del Sol will ever
forget. And the reason that Madrid is on the alert all night is that it
is waiting, like Mr. Micawber, for something to turn up. When something
does turn up to justify a row, the Madrileños make the most of it, and
they yell ‘Muerta!’ just as a London mob would yell ‘Let him have it!’
‘Muerta!’ is cried when the spectators in the bull-ring have had enough
of the bull, and want him got rid of. ‘Muerta!’ shouted concerning a
politician, a prelate, or a prince, means ‘Let him take his hook!’

That expression, by-the-by, though it looks like English slang, is quite
a classical utterance. Its origin lies among the Roman gladiatorial
games. A gladiator took his hook when the pole with a hook at the end of
it was used to drag his dying or dead body from the arena.

The window of my sitting-room looks out upon the world-famed Puerta del
Sol. Night and day a mighty, ever-changing crowd passes before me. Night
and day the plashing fountain plays in the middle of the great public
square. Night and day trains and ‘buses and mule-drawn waggons and
beautiful landaus and phaetons and broughams and mail-coaches drawn by
horses not to be surpassed in Hyde Park dash here and there. Night and
day the hum of the idle, sauntering crowd rises and falls, and makes
music to my ears.

Madrid is not a city. It is only a town. But such a town!--such streets!
such shops! such horses! such carriages! such drives! such promenades!
and over all the everlasting gaiety and insouciance of a people whose
grand motto in all things mundane is this, ‘We have only one life--let
us make the best of it and worry about nothing.’ Your true Spaniard
never hurries and never worries and never frets. He inherits the dignity
and the fatalism of the Moors, who have left their mark not only on the
architecture of the cities, but upon the character of the citizens. If
anything is a little beyond him, he folds his hands, smokes a cigarette,
and waits for the dénouement.

Quietly and calmly, with a Spanish guide who walked everywhere so
leisurely that I had to keep walking round and round him in order not to
leave him miles behind, I saw everything that was to be seen in Madrid.
I saw the royal palaces, I saw the bed--ay, and the mattress and
bolster--on which King Alfonso died. I saw the royal stables and the
royal carriages, I got a desperate fit of the blues in the Escorial--the
eighth wonder of the world, the morbid outcome of a morbid mind; the
last home of Spanish kings--that glowing palace on a barren rock, in
which the monkish Philip died a hideous death of lingering agony,
loathsome to himself and all around him, and in his last hours smitten
by a gnawing terror that, after all, the royal road to heaven might not
be over the dead bodies of countless victims slain ‘to the greater glory
of God.’ I drove in the Prado, and saw grandees of Spain by the gross. I
met the sisters of the King and ‘el Rey Chico,’ ‘the King Baby,’ with
his royal mamma, all out for a drive, and I had all the scandals poured
into my ear as great and titled ladies passed in their magnificent
equipages.

Some years ago the ladies of Madrid took to driving high-stepping horses
in mail phaetons, and even tooling showy teams through the principal
thoroughfares. In the crowded traffic this was the cause of frequent
accidents. The alcalde (clever man!) made it a regulation that no lady
under thirty should drive, except in the Park. You may go all over
Madrid now, and you don’t meet a single lady holding the reins. They are
all under the regulation age.

Next to the bull-fights and the theatres, the things in which I have
taken the greatest interest in Spain are the dances and the funerals.
Both of these are so curious that I shall leave them until I have
travelled with the reader a little further afield. One thing struck me
in Madrid as it has struck me everywhere in Spain, and that is the way
in which the Germans are monopolizing the trade of the country. Every
hotel is crammed with German commercial travellers, and the shops are
filled with German goods. The Germans I meet are excellent linguists.
They speak Spanish fluently, and many of them can carry on a
conversation in English and French as well. The Germans have displayed
an enterprise in getting the trade of Europe into their hands which is
truly remarkable. Their dealers and manufacturers visit the different
countries, study the popular taste, and then produce articles which are
as national as possible in character. For instance, half the fans and
mantillas which are sold in Madrid and the large provincial towns are of
German make. And yet they are absolutely Spanish. Many other things are
of German make, and thousands of French and English tourists who carry
away with them boxes full of specimen Spanish goods to present to their
friends are really taking home things which have been imported from the
Fatherland. As to cigars, the Germans supply three-fourths of the
genuine Havannahs, even in Spanish seaports at which ships from Havannah
constantly touch.

France and England also do a large trade with Spain in manufactured
goods. But they supply only the articles which are purely French and
English. It has been reserved for Germany to supply, not only German,
but _Spanish_ goods to Spain.

The cafés in Madrid are enormous and gorgeous in the extreme. The
climate does not allow the guests to sit out of doors, but the saloons
inside are so vast that in some of them a regiment might go through its
manœuvres. The cafés are thronged night and day. Here the revolutions
are hatched, here governments are overthrown. Chocolate is the great
Spanish drink, but of an evening quite half the people have tea.

And such tea! It is a pale lemon colour when you pour it out, and
consists principally of hot water. I noticed several ladies and
gentlemen flavoured it with a small glass of rum. The tea I had in one
of the grand cafés was rum without being flavoured. In fact, it was the
rummest tea I ever tasted in my life.

One evening, hot and thirsty after seeing four ‘funcions’ at four
different theatres, I was wondering what I could drink, when I saw a
café in the Calle de Azenal that had a large advertisement outside,
‘English refreshments.’ I rushed to the door to read the list of English
refreshments that was displayed on a card outside. I only read the top
line, and that was enough.

This was the top line: ‘Zurzaparilla!’ One travels and learns. I never
knew before that sarsaparilla was the national drink of the Briton.

I stayed at an excellent French hotel in Madrid, but I got tired of the
French _table d’hôte_. I wanted to eat as the Spaniards eat. One evening
I persuaded a Spanish gentleman to take me to a real Spanish
middle-class restaurant, and let me taste the fare of the country. The
Spanish are a frugal and moderate race. Two or three dishes and
dessert--that is their dinner. There is no long bill of fare as among
the French.

The restaurant was a quiet room on the ground-floor of a modest-looking
house. There were one or two families and several single gentlemen
dining. The women wore handkerchiefs on their heads and shawls over
their shoulders. People dropped in, had a soup and a dish of meat, an
orange and some nuts, and went away satisfied. Our bill of fare was more
extravagant, but it created a sensation. The landlord and all the
waiters came in turns to look at the extraordinary Englishmen who had
such gigantic appetites.

Here is the exact menu. We began with olives and pickled pimientos and
guindelias and chilis. These were the _hors d'œuvres_. Then cigarettes.
Then we had an ordinary thin soup, followed by cigarettes; then came the
great national dish, called cocido. If you have a good dish of cocido
(pronounced cothido, because of the Spanish lisp given to the c before
certain vowels) you have a good deal for your dinner. It is a savoury
stew of chicken, potatoes, sausage, bacon, and white beans, all boiled
up with pieces of beef. In most Spanish families this is the everyday
dish. Of course the poorer classes have to leave out some of the
ingredients, except on festive occasions. In Andalusia the peasants will
sit round a huge panful of their version of this article. It is made
according to their means, and often vegetables are plentiful, but the
pieces of meat few and far between, and each man ladles it out by
spoonfuls into his mouth. Plates are dispensed with.

The foreigner who is suddenly confronted with a huge dish of cocido and
politely requested to help himself is in some difficulty. He takes a
spoonful at hazard. The waiter still stands at his elbow. ‘The señor has
only taken beans.’ Again you make a dash with the spoon and secure
something else. The waiter stares, but does not move away. ‘The señor
has only taken sausage.’ The señor, confused, requests the waiter to
assist him; and then the process, though slow, is interesting. A
spoonful of beans on the plate; then, selected with the greatest care; a
piece of chicken; then a patient search for a slice of sausage buried
under a mound of cabbage; then the cabbage itself; then a minute devoted
to a voyage of discovery in search of the nicest piece of beef; then an
exploration in search of a succulent morsel of bacon; then a spoonful of
the potatoes; and then, over all, an extra spoonful of the beautiful
gravy. I timed my waiter, and he took six minutes and a half to help me
to cocido. When the dish passes down a _table d’hôte_ it takes about an
hour to go round. It is for this reason that the Spaniards help
themselves all together at the same time from the common dish.

The cocido was excellent. Well cooked, it is a dinner for a king. I
intend to introduce it into England upon my return. But I am afraid it
will give rise to a good deal of ill-feeling in families. Somebody will
get all the slices of the sausage, and then there will be recriminations
and angry words. We have neither the patience nor the politeness of the
Spaniards; and cocido is a dish that requires a good deal of both.

The next item after cigarettes was a Spanish salad. This salad is
prepared in a peculiar way, and spread out upon bread into which the oil
and vinegar have been allowed to soak. This, too, was excellent. Then
more cigarettes; then a cheese made of honey and cream, and several
other ingredients which require to be taken on trust; and then, after
more cigarettes, some ‘angel’s hair,’ which is really a preparation of
orange-rind very thinly shredded. More cigarettes; then an orange,
raisins of Malaga, and almonds and Barcelona nuts, dried and salted, and
delicious. I am so enchanted with these ‘almindras’ that I have made all
my boxes overweight with them. The wines with this feast were
Valdepeñas--a red wine made from grapes grown on the rocky plains around
Madrid--and Jerez, which, of course, is sherry. I have been to Jerez
lately, and, having seen the extent of the vineyards, I beg to add that,
though Jerez is, of course, sherry, it does not follow that all sherry
is Jerez--very, very far from it--often thousands of miles from it. And
we wound up with more cigarettes.

To finish the evening in a real Spanish way, after going to a rather low
Spanish café to see the real Spanish dancing, we had, before retiring to
rest, ‘Dos chocolates con pica-tostes'; and that, if you please, is two
cups of thick chocolate, with square fingers of bread beautifully fried
in olive-oil. And we weren’t ill.



CHAPTER V.

SEVILLE.


I spent a pleasant week in Madrid, and I then went on to Seville. On
three days a week there is an express train which does the journey of
350 miles in fifteen hours. This is fortunate, because the ordinary
trains take twenty-four, and even this is fast in comparison with the
trains on less frequented lines. The express journey was not without its
interesting features. We stopped now and again for fifteen minutes or
half an hour. When we stopped, everybody got out of the train and went
into the buffet--passengers, guards, engine-drivers, porters, and all.
We all sat down together, and ate and drank together; and then we all
smoked cigarettes together round the fire. When it was time to start, we
got up, stretched ourselves, and leisurely strolled back to the train,
the guards and the engine-driver and the stoker being generally the last
to turn out. It was very friendly and very nice; but as these stoppages
of half an hour occur about every twenty minutes, the English traveller,
unaccustomed to spend a day and a night in conversing with the
engine-driver in a station waiting-room, begins to get impatient.

Our ‘civil guards,’ of course, went with us, their moustaches fiercely
twisted and their rifles loaded. We still want this sort of protection
on long railway journeys over lonely plains in Spain, because the
brigands are not quite done away with yet. Only last year they stopped
and robbed a train. The way in which the robbery is carried out is this:
The brigands signal to the engine-driver to stop, and he does so, being
generally ‘in’ with the brigands. Then these gentlemen, called in
Spanish ‘Salteadores de caminos,’ or road jumpers, approach the
carriage, raise their hats to the passengers, and, in the most polite
language, request them to give up their money and jewels. The ‘guardias
civiles’ are stopped from firing at the robbers by the affrighted
passengers, as the rascals have previously explained that if they are
fired at, they will shoot at the passengers in return.

The chief of the brigands last year addressed the passengers in these
terms:

     ‘LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--Please deliver up your money and valuables
     of every description. We do not wish to put you to the indignity of
     a search, but shall rely upon your honour. But as soon as you tell
     us you have given up everything we shall search one passenger of
     each class. If upon either we find a single coin or a single
     valuable, we shall shoot one passenger in each compartment. Ladies
     and gentlemen, do not hurry yourselves. Our time is yours.’

You can imagine that, under these circumstances, there is very little
kept back. The passengers beg and pray of each other to conceal nothing.
As soon as a complete surrender has been made, the brigands raise their
hats again, and bid the passengers farewell in these words, ‘Vaya
ustedes con Dios!'--‘May you go with God!'--and, as the train moves off,
they add, with beautiful and simple piety, ‘And may we all meet again
some day in God’s big parlour!’

These dignified and solemn Spanish salutations are universal among the
people, and are never omitted. Your beggar in Spain is a gentleman, and
you address him always in formal and courteous language. ‘Brother,’ you
say, when he importunes you, ‘may God put it into your heart to deprive
me of the pleasure of your society!’ To your waiter, to the servant, to
the boy who blacks your boots, your language must never be curt. At the
_table d’hôte_ in Spain, high-born gentlemen and the officers talk as
much with the waiter as they do with each other. He joins in the general
conversation; and I have heard an ex-Spanish Minister gravely discussing
the political situation with the waiter who was handing round the
dishes. Sometimes the guests agreed with the waiter, and sometimes with
the ex-Minister.

A word about the accommodation for travellers in second-rate Spanish
towns off the beaten track before I hurry away from the gayest and
brightest capital in all Europe, and go on to Seville. English
travellers are frightened from visiting many small Spanish towns by
tales of bad accommodation, vile cooking, and uncivilized ways. My
personal experience proves the contrary. In many places off the beaten
track I was excellently housed and fed, and every Spaniard with whom I
came in contact put himself out of his way to make my path one of roses.
But I didn’t walk about rooms with my hat on; I didn’t cross the high
altar in churches without bowing my knee; and I didn’t turn my nose up
at all the dishes, and say ‘Faugh!’ and I didn’t call the servants and
the proprietor ‘d.f.'s’ because they didn’t understand English. The
English who come abroad do much to bring about the incivility with which
they are sometimes treated. The off-hand, imperious, insular manner is
not understood in a country where the beggars address each other as
‘Your excellency’ and ‘Your lordship.’ Instead of finding fault with
everything Spanish, praise everything, say you like everything, and
flatter instead of abusing your hosts, and you will find the Spaniards,
from the highest to the lowest, vying with each other as to which can
show you the greatest courtesy.

The courtesy of the servants in Spanish hotels is wonderful. Every
waiter, every chambermaid, rises when you pass, and bows and remains
standing till you are out of sight. Your coachman remains bareheaded
while you get into your carriage. In country places all the drivers you
meet on the road raise their hats and wish you all that is good.

In the best hotels a staff of servants sit on sofas on each landing
waiting to attend to the summons of the guests. If you walk up and down
your corridor for half an hour, every time you pass that sofa the
servants will rise and remain standing till you have passed.

In little out-of-the-way towns at _table d’hôte_, if a lady comes into
the room all the gentlemen at the table rise and bow to her, and remain
standing until she is seated. When the _table d’hôte_ is over, the men
as they rise bow to those who still remain seated, and, in courtly
phraseology, lay themselves at the feet of the company.

At one _table d’hôte_ in a little town I was astonished to see a
gentleman sit down in his hat and cloak, and keep them on. I made
inquiries, and found that he was a Castilian grandee, and it was his
privilege to remain covered. The hat in Spain is the seat of dignity.
That is why you give your visitor’s hat the armchair of honour when he
calls upon you.

Seville is a place one longs to see until one has seen it, and then one
wonders why one wanted to see it so much. It is beautiful. I am a
Philistine, a Goth, a Vandal, a dreadful creature generally, but I am
always willing to admit beauty where it exists. I don’t prostrate
myself and worship simply because I am told it is the proper thing to
do, but anything that I like I become enthusiastic over. I can’t become
enthusiastic over Seville. It is quaint and old and picturesque and
pretty and lordly and interesting, and all that sort of thing, but you
soon get tired of it. The climate has something to do with this,
perhaps. The energy goes out of you in Seville. You saunter and put your
hands in your pockets, and so in time the very laziness of the life
begins to bore you. If I hadn’t heard so much about Seville it is quite
possible I should have been enchanted with it. But I have heard its
praises sung on the top note all my life, and so I was disappointed.

The people and the patios are the most interesting things in Seville.
Artists have painted the men and women of Andalusia in their national
costumes for countless ages, so that everyone is familiar with them.
Comic operas and ballets by the score have shown us the dark-eyed
lasses, with the coquettish comb and the mantilla, and the bright
flowers in their hair, casting melting glances from behind a fan. And
the songs about the Guadalquivir would bind up into a very big volume.
Every Englishman is therefore prepared beforehand for Seville. I was. I
got out at the station, and got into an omnibus that rattled my bones
over awful stones, and jerked me up in the air, and threw me down on the
floor, and reduced me to a living pulp; and, as soon as I was something
between a jam and a jelly, I began to look about me.

Seville is built on the regular Moorish system. Narrow streets and
houses close together to keep out the fierce heat of the sun. We go full
speed through streets that leave only half an inch on each side of the
bus. Foot passengers dash into doorways to shelter until we have passed.
We come to streets so narrow that the horses could not pass through,
let alone the bus; and so we dive up here and dive down there, and
describe a circle, in order to arrive at our hotel. There are certain
streets that carriages go up, and certain streets that they come down.
Nothing could pass! And there are no footways. An unskilful driver who
goes an inch to the right or the left chips a piece out of his vehicle
by knocking it against a house.

But one thing strikes the first comer and rivets his attention. Every
house, small and large, has a lovely gate of ironwork as delicate as
lace, through which one sees a beautiful inner patio or marble courtyard
filled with waving trees and beautiful plants. Often in the centre a
splendid fountain plays. Seville is an old city of the Moors. Their
handiwork is everywhere. In these houses that one passes the Moors lived
their Eastern life before they were driven out by the reconquest of
Spain, and so beautiful is the climate, so clear the atmosphere, that
everything stands to-day just as it stood hundreds of years ago. The
Moor is everywhere in this part of Spain. The people still dance the
Moorish dances and sing the Moorish songs, and the blood of the Moors
still lingers in their veins, the features of the Moors still survive,
and make the faces that one meets full of Eastern grace and beauty.

The country all round Seville is a garden of Eden. The orange-trees, the
palm-trees, and the almond-trees are everywhere. The hedges are the
prickly pear and the cactus. The landscape is African in its luxuriance,
and the golden sunshine floods the land with glory. But the roads! Oh,
ye gods, the roads! They ought to be impossible roads; but we drove over
them. They are in ruts a foot deep; they are in holes in which a man
might hide himself. They have not been swept for centuries. The mud
that was in heaps in the days of the Moors remains in heaps still. The
dogs and cats who died by the roadside in the days of the Moors have not
yet been buried. Once when I was in Seville it rained all night. The
next day we drove through a sea of liquid mud. Even the roadways in
front of the palaces of the rich are in great holes and full of ponds.
Carriages break down, horses break their legs, visitors disappear down
holes in the roadway. The Sevillians regret the circumstances; they
repair the carriages, buy new horses, make new friends, but they never
repair the roads. Some day the only way of getting about Seville will be
by balloon. Even now it is the safest way. So much has been done for
Seville by the past Moors; the present burgesses might at least keep the
roads in repair.

The Guadalquivir! Another of my lost illusions. Poets have sung it from
a distance--the poet who walks upon its bank holds his nose. The
Guadalquivir, out of the poetry books and the songs and the romances, is
a commonplace, dirty stream, about as romantic as the Thames at Barking
Creek, and not so clean.

The people and the patios and the climate make Seville, and the Santa
Semaña--the Holy Week!--brings thousands and thousands of people to the
marmalade city. It is a week of magnificent processions--a week of such
pomp and circumstance and magnificence and show as to be indescribable.
All the winter long people come to Seville because it is said to be a
beautiful place. During the month of the Santa Semaña they cram into
Seville to see a sight which no other town in the world can show.

English swarm in Seville. At the Hotel of the Tower of Babel we sit down
180 to _table d’hôte_. The eighty are English and American. We speak all
languages at this hotel. All day long it is a babel of French, English,
Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Swedish, Dutch, and Portuguese. We
have magnificent entertainments at dinner-time. One evening a band of
fifty ‘Estudiantina’ play and sing and dance for our amusement. Another
evening we have professors of the guitar who serenade us. But this great
caravansera of foreigners spoils Seville for me. I might be at a big
hotel anywhere except in Spain. Everything is thoroughly un-Spanish. All
around one hears English and French, and people dress and give
themselves airs, and bring the customs and manners of London and Paris
and St. Petersburg to Seville, and so spoil it. It knocks the romance
out of the place to hear at every street corner, ‘Hullo, old fellow; how
are you?’ and ‘Oh, Jane, did you see that funny old lady?’ or ‘Bai Jove,
what a doosid pretty girl in that balcony!’ There are so many places in
Spain which are ugly and purely Spanish, that one feels annoyed to come
to a place which is pretty but cosmopolitan.

The great tobacco factory at Seville is one of the first sights the
stranger is taken to see. It requires a certain amount of courage for a
bashful man to run the gauntlet of 6,500 young ladies. Everybody in
Spain smokes cigarettes. Little boys begin at the age of eight, and from
that time the cigarette is rarely absent from a Spaniard’s lips. Many of
them die smoking. The consumption of cigarettes is naturally enormous,
and the bulk are manufactured in Seville. The Government factory gives
daily employment to about 7,000 people, and of these only a hundred or
two are men.

When you enter the enormous rooms crowded with girls dressed in bright
colours, the _coup d'œil_ is striking in the extreme. In one immense
low-vaulted room there are 1,500 girls. They sit in endless rows--about
twenty girls to a row--on either side of the room, all at little
tables, all rolling cigarettes. There is a blaze and blur of colour, a
babel of tongues. Every girl has a gay handkerchief about her
neck--every girl has a bright flower stuck in her hair. All along the
walls hang the gay outdoor dresses of the little cigarette-makers. As I
walk, blushing and nervous, down an endless avenue of flashing eyes, I
grow almost giddy. It is a sea of women’s faces, an undulating ocean of
flower-decked heads. One has to pick one’s way carefully down the
central avenue, for it is blockaded all along the line with cradles. The
married cigarette-makers are allowed to bring their babies with them to
the factory. They rock the cradle with one foot, while their busy
fingers roll the cigarette.

‘Silence!’ is called by the forewoman as the visitor passes down the
lines, but there is a ‘chut-chut’ every second from some dark-eyed wench
who points to a cradle and holds out her hand. It is the habit of
visitors to bestow occasional coppers on the babies, and so all the
young mothers are on the alert for the visitors’ charity.

The girls earn good wages. At many of the tables whole families are
working together. But the hours are long, and the atmosphere awful. The
damp, warm odour of the tobacco in the long, low-roofed rooms is in
itself almost stupefying. But there is no ventilation, and the
atmosphere is absolutely indescribable. Many of the girls smoke
cigarettes at their work. I was very glad to light one myself long
before I had done the round of the factory.

I have said that cigarette-smoking is universal in Spain. Nowhere does
the habit strike the foreigner more forcibly than at a funeral. Funerals
in Spain are conducted in a manner which is in the highest degree
original. When you die you are got rid of as soon as possible. The
Spaniards have the same horror of death surroundings as the Italians,
but they go a great deal further. As quickly as possible--sometimes
within an hour--the body is placed in an elaborate coffin made of metal,
and painted to imitate marble. Some of these ‘caskets’ are smothered in
gilt ornaments of a most elaborate character. All sizes are kept ready
at the great funeral establishments. The coffins open lengthways. The
lid is on hinges, and is locked with a key. The poorer people are buried
in wooden coffins, covered with various designs in coloured ribbons.
Children’s coffins are made in white and blue, and are decorated like a
bon-bon box. Coffins of this description are sold almost everywhere in
the South. You see them hanging up outside the shops by dozens.

I went over the premises of one of the biggest undertaking concerns in
Spain. It is a public company, and is called ‘La Funeraria.’ I never saw
such magnificence in my life. Some of the funeral cars are built in the
style of the great gilt and glass cars which figure in a circus
procession through a country town. The drivers and footmen are dressed
in gorgeous liveries that make you blink to look at them. Some of the
liveries that I was shown cost over £200 each. They positively blazed
with gold. A grand first-class funeral, with a retinue of footmen and
officials, is a perfect Lord Mayor’s show in itself.

As a rule, the corpse, even when so magnificently conducted to its last
home, is unattended by any relatives. Spaniards finish with their dead
when the church ceremony is over. Few corpses are accompanied to the
cemetery except by the undertaker’s men. But in ordinary cases the
coffin is placed in a yellow, open car, and driven up to the cemetery by
a gentleman in a short jacket and peaked cap. The driver smokes his
cigarette and cracks his whip as he hums his favourite tune. I have
seen dozens of these ordinary funerals in Spain, and they have always
filled me with amazement. The ridiculous always lives next door to the
sublime. The grotesque and the horrible are first cousins. More than
once I have with difficulty restrained myself from smiling at a Spanish
interment, so utterly out of keeping with English notions of decorum has
the final ceremony been.

I will describe two interments that I witnessed in one day at the great
cemetery at Seville. Four little barefooted boys arrive at the cemetery
gates. Between them they carry a little blue and white coffin. They jog
along, chatting and laughing, up the long avenue of trees. Presently
they see something which attracts their attention--a bird in a tree.
Down they drop the coffin by the roadside, and off they scamper across
the grass to the tree. They pick up stones and begin to throw them at
the bird. In the process they quarrel about something, and two of the
boys have a fight. In the meantime the coffin lies in the roadway. I
walk up to it, and through the glass let into the lid I see the dead
child’s face. It has been dead perhaps twelve hours, so the features are
unchanged, and it appears to be calmly sleeping. Several people pass me;
no one takes any notice of the coffin in the road. One old gentleman
nearly tumbles over it, and swears. It is evidently nothing unusual.

Presently these ragged boys, having arranged their little difference,
return, and pick up the coffin. Two of them have lighted cigarettes.
They carry their burthen right across the cemetery to a little house,
where two or three men with brass numbers on their caps are smoking
cigarettes. Here they show a paper, and one of the men, picking up a
spade, tells the boys to follow him. Off they go, jogging the coffin now
this way and now that, and I follow them.

We come to a long line of brick vaults. Some are empty; some are filled
up to the top with what I presume to be mould. The gravedigger turns
over the loose earth with his spade, and strikes a coffin here and
there. The vault is too full. He moves on to another bricked square,
pushes his spade in, and says there is just room. He digs a little hole
and lays the coffin flush with the top of the brickwork. Then he throws
a few spadefuls of earth over it from a mound close by, and the ceremony
is finished. There are thousands of these bricked squares in the
cemetery, and each contains a score of coffins. There is no stone over
the top, only the loose brown earth. Some of them are so full that the
earth has to be piled up to cover the coffin, and thus the coffin is
actually above ground.

This system of burying in bricked squares saves a lot of trouble. The
graves are always ready, and the dead can be brought to the cemetery and
put away at once. There is no necessity to order or select beforehand.
To understand this system you must see a Spanish cemetery. No written
words can convey a correct impression of its general peculiarities.

The next funeral arrives as I am leaving the cemetery. A car, driven by
a man smoking a cigarette, comes up. It is followed by a cab, from which
alights an old gentleman, also smoking a cigarette. The car pulls up at
the gate of the ‘depository,’ a little house in the grounds arranged for
the reception of people who have died too late to be buried that day.
The guardian of this house, cigarette in mouth, flings open the doors,
speaks to the gentleman, and then calls for somebody to come. A man with
a cigarette in his mouth now approaches. He and the car-driver lift out
the coffin and carry it into the house and lay it on the trestles. They
then light a candle at the head and foot, and come out and shut the
door. Off drives the car, the man lighting another cigarette, and the
gentleman to whom the corpse belongs strolls across the cemetery with
the gravedigger to choose ‘his place.’ The gravedigger turns up a little
earth in one brick square, and then in another. ‘Too full,’ says the
gentleman, puffing his cigarette. He goes from square to square, and
pokes at the loose earth with his stick. At last he settles on a square
which is only half full. ‘That will do,’ he says, and then he returns to
his cab and drives away.

I make inquiries of the keeper of the ‘depository.’ The body inside the
coffin is the gentleman’s wife. She died last night. She will be buried
to-morrow morning. ‘Will the gentleman return to see her buried?’ ‘Oh,
no; he has finished. He has left her here. The rest concerns us!’ We
find it difficult to understand this leaving the dead to be buried
without ceremony, and without a friendly watcher; but the Spaniards
think nothing of it. They bid their dead good-bye with the last prayer.
The interment is no ceremony at all to them. The dead are hurried out of
the house as soon as possible. Sometimes they are sent to the
undertaker’s ‘depository’ within a couple of hours of their decease, and
the friends see no more of them. This, with the Southern horror of a
corpse, one can understand. But the cigarette-smoking of hearse-drivers,
cemetery attendants, and gravediggers while handling the coffin, strikes
the foreign looker-on as, to say the least of it, lacking in ordinary
respect for the dead.

In many parts of Spain the death ceremonies are peculiar. The corpse is
elaborately dressed in its best, and has its hair beautifully done, and
a pair of new boots put on its feet. It is then got rid of as soon as
possible, and all the furniture in the room is taken out and sold, or
given away. Everything that can remind the family of the deceased is
removed. A notice of the death is not only inserted in the newspapers,
but in some cases placarded on the walls; and you are requested to go to
such and such a church on such and such a day, when a mass will be said
for the repose of the dead person’s soul.

Among the poor there is a very free-and-easy way of getting their dead
buried. One day, outside a great cemetery, I came upon three common
coffins lying on the ground near the gate. Seeing that the coffins were
occupied, I started back in horror, and asked what, in Heaven’s name,
such an exhibition meant. ‘Oh,’ said my Spanish friend, ‘they are poor
people who cannot afford to be buried yet. There is a little fee to be
paid. Someone will come by presently, and pay for the coffins to be put
away as an act of charity.’

Unburied coffins are bad enough, but what do you think of dead children
hung up outside the cemetery gates, waiting for some kind soul to pay
for them to be put into the earth? The sight is not uncommon in the
South of Spain, where every form and shape of beggary is rampant.
Sometimes the friends of a small corpse, instead of asking charity, will
smuggle it into the cemetery hidden under a cloak; and, when no one is
looking, drop it into one of the big square graves I have told you
about, and kick a little loose earth over it. There are plenty of
uncoffined dead under the loose earth in the great cemetery of Seville.

Burials alive are far more common in hot countries, where the burial
takes place within twenty-four hours after death, than they are in
England, where one gets, as a rule, a week’s grace. In Spain the body is
frequently removed to the undertaker’s shop a few hours after death. In
one of the largest of these establishments in Madrid, some years ago, an
extraordinary sight was witnessed. A gentleman was brought in his
‘casket’ one afternoon, and placed in the room set apart for that branch
of the business. The proprietor lived over his premises, and on this
especial evening was giving a grand ball. When the ball was at its
height, a gentleman in full evening dress suddenly joined the company.
He danced with the wife of the undertaker, and he danced with the
undertaker’s daughter, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

The undertaker thought he knew his face, but did not like to be rude and
ask him his name; but by-and-by all the guests departed, and the strange
gentleman was the only one left. ‘Shall I send for a cab for you?’ said
the host at last. ‘No thank you,’ replied the gentleman; ‘I’m staying in
the house.’ ‘Staying in the house!’ exclaimed the undertaker; ‘who are
you, sir?’ ‘What, don’t you know me? I’m the corpse that was brought in
this afternoon.’ The undertaker, horrified, rushed to the mortuary-room
and found the coffin empty. His wife and daughter had been dancing with
a corpse. An explanation, of course, followed. The gentleman, who had
only been in a trance, had suddenly recovered, and hearing music and
revelry above, and having a keen sense of humour, had got out of his
coffin (the Spanish coffin closes with a lid, which is only locked just
previous to interment) and joined the festive party. He was quite
presentable, as in Spain the dead are generally buried in full evening
dress.

Writing about funerals in Spain reminds me of a curious ceremony in
connection with the burial of Spanish kings. The Pantheon in the
Escorial is their last home. Here they lie in splendid marble sarcophagi
in great niches, and you can walk about and see them all. Alfonso’s
sarcophagus is empty as yet. The late King’s body lies on a table in an
adjoining chamber--a chamber called El Pudridero, which is really a
place where the royal bodies are left to undergo the natural process of
decay which at last fits them to be placed in the ornamental arrangement
in the Pantheon. The ceremony to which I referred above took place at
the late King’s funeral. The body was brought in great state from Madrid
to the Escorial, a distance of thirty miles. The ‘intendant’ of the
royal palace was in charge of it. When the procession reached that gate
of the Escorial which is only opened to admit a dead sovereign, the
procession halted. The ‘intendant’ then went to the coffin and opened
it, and exclaimed in a loud voice, ‘Don Alfonso!’ then again still
louder, ‘Don Alfonso!’ and again, ‘Don Alfonso!’ He then turned to the
officials, and said, ‘Don Alfonso does not answer; he is dead!’ The
coffin was locked again, and the King passed on to his last home.

A note or two before I leave Seville. When I arrived in Seville, before
seeing the sights, I went to a barber’s shop to have my head shampooed
and to be shaved, and to be generally put straight after fifteen hours
in the train. I asked my ‘Figaro’ if he was the Barber of Seville. He
shook his head deprecatingly, and said, ‘No; but he was one of them.’ I
explained to him that I wanted to know if he was the immortal Barber of
Seville--that it was a mild joke. He said there were so many barbers in
Seville. He had never heard of Count Almaviva, but he knew a Rosina. She
was working in the great tobacco factory of Seville, and was very
pretty. I lost my patience. I cried, ‘Great heavens, man! you are a
barber of Seville, and you never heard of the Barber of Seville who is
in an opera known all over the world?’ The man thought for a little
while, and then exclaimed, ‘Ah! I know what you mean now. They show a
shop to tourists where a barber once lived who did something. But I
didn’t know it was true about him. The guides here make so many stories
for the tourists!’

I left the Barber of Seville sad and downcast. I had expected that all
the time he was shaving me he would be singing the best-known airs of
the opera. And he didn’t even know who Figaro was!

One more disillusion awaited me in Seville. One morning the waiter
brought me for my breakfast some marmalade. ‘Ah!’ I exclaimed,
‘Seville--Seville oranges! Of course, the marmalade here is excellent.’
‘Yes, señor,’ replied the waiter; ‘it is considered a great delicacy in
Seville, because we cannot get it here. This is the best Scotch
marmalade from London!’

The Andalusian dances are quite as interesting as the funerals. To see
the dances in perfection you have, when there is no _fête_ or country
festival on, to go to the cafés chantants, and these establishments in
Spain are only frequented by a low class of people. My companion and I
put our dignity in our pockets and went to the cafés, but we had a
slight difficulty in explaining to the young ladies of the
establishments that we were there to see them dance, and not to drink
bottles of Malaga and talk Spanish to them. The dancing of the
Andalusian girls is well worth putting up with a little bad company to
see. There is a good deal of the Oriental movement of the hips and arms
in it; in fact, both the song and the dance of the South are Moorish,
but there is also a grace and a coquettishness of a purely Spanish
character. When a man and woman dance together with the castanets, and
dance well, there is no prettier sight to be seen.

The men are all good dancers. The great dancer of Seville at the present
moment is a butcher, one José Fernandez, surnamed ‘El Chibo’ (the
little lamb). He has a fine shop on the Plaza, and is very well to do.
Unfortunately he could not dance for me because he had been having a
political discussion with a friend, and had received by way of argument
two bullets in the chest, and so was confined to the hospital. ‘El
Chibo’ is also one of the leading figures in the great procession of the
Holy Week. He takes the character of a Roman general. For this occasion
he has had made, at his own expense, a new and beautiful costume, for
which he has paid the trifling sum of 15,000 pesetas--say, £600. You may
guess that ‘El Chibo,’ the dancing butcher of Seville, is not a poor
man.

The gipsy dancing of Granada is different from the Andalusian dancing.
As it was not convenient for me to climb up the Alhambra Hill at night
and sit in a gipsy cave, I had the gipsy dancers brought down to a house
in the town by their captain, and paid for a private performance. The
guide-books say that it is a ‘disgusting exhibition.’ It isn’t exactly
the sort of thing a girl would take her mother to see; but ‘Honi soit
qui mal y pense.’ The gipsies dance ‘Old Africa’ and their other dances
without any thought of evil. They are not refined, and many of the
‘figures’ are coarse and suggestive, but the general effect is striking,
and dramatic, and picturesque. After the real Moorish dances of Africa
and the Spanish dances of Andalusia, these gipsy dances of Granada are
not worth going much out of one’s way to see. But the gipsies themselves
are interesting, and the old gipsy captain plays the guitar like an
angel. I tried to carry on a conversation in Romany with them, and I
found that, taking into account the difference of the Spanish and the
English pronunciation of the same word, they understood me very well
indeed. I stayed with the gipsies and their captain till eleven on
Saturday night, and on Sunday, at their special invitation, I went up
the hills and spent an hour in their home--a cave burrowed right into
the mountain, and fitted up in an exceedingly primitive style. The chief
of the party I spent Sunday with is nearly seventy-six, and a hale and
hearty old Gitano still. He told me that many years ago he danced with
his wife before the Prince of Wales, and he asked me if he was King of
England yet, if he was married, and how many children he had. I gave him
the desired information, and then he asked me, if I saw the Prince of
Wales when I went back to England, to give his best respects to his
Royal Highness. I promised that I would, should the opportunity occur. I
regret to say that up to the present moment it has not.



CHAPTER VI.

GRANADA AND THE ALHAMBRA AND CORDOBA.


The journey from Seville to Granada is a fearful affair. The distance is
only 179 miles, but it takes all day. Directly you come into the
province of Granada the train is besieged with beggars. At every station
ragged boys leap up on the steps of the carriages and whine for alms.
When you arrive at the terminus, beggars by dozens pounce upon you. You
get into an omnibus to go to the town (I selected a real Spanish hotel
to escape from the English), and you are rattled over stones so huge
that they throw the omnibus up several feet from the ground. Suddenly
you stop. You look out and find yourself in the centre of a dirty,
half-lighted square. You are in the middle of the roadway. Round you
dance dozens of weird forms with bare legs and arms, clad in ragged
cloaks. The door is opened, and you are requested to descend. You look
in vain for a hotel, and before you can ask a question your luggage is
thrown off the roof into the mud. The dozen beggars scream and shout and
gesticulate. One seizes your rugs, another your portmanteau, another
your bag. In vain you protest and shriek to the bus-driver. In
self-defence you rush after the procession of beggars who have seized
your property. Then you see that they are wading through the mud on to a
pavement, and that there is a hotel in the distance. The roads of
Granada are so constructed that a deep ditch separates the road from the
pavement. This causes everybody in a carriage to be set down in the
middle of the roadway.

I followed the beggars who had seized my luggage, and found myself
presently in the hotel. Here the beggars grouped themselves round me
until I had been given a number, and then up they filed barefooted and
dirty to my sleeping apartment. The hotel people didn’t say anything; so
I presumed it was usual for the porterage of the hotel to be performed
in this way. A handful of coppers relieved me of my attendants, and I
counted my packages and found them all safe; but it will be a long time
before I forget being turned out on a dark night in the middle of a dark
square, and having all my belongings seized and carried off by the
beggars of Granada.

Granada is the Alhambra! But for the Alhambra, Granada would be left to
the gipsies and the mendicants. But the Alhambra makes the town the
Mecca of all travelling Christians. To behold the palace on the hill,
the ‘red fortress,’ the last stronghold of the Moors, it is worth while
enduring a good deal more than the persecutions of the most degraded
population in all Spain. As one wanders through these world-renowned
ruins and gazes in admiration and awe at the glorious handiwork of a
race that was swept out of Spain hundreds of years ago, one pinches
one’s self to see if it is a dream or a reality. One walks upon
enchanted ground. Here the genii have been at work. It is too utterly
prosaic to imagine that this fairy palace was built by mortal hands. For
my own part, I don’t believe it. I am as sure as I am of anything that
one day a gentleman out of ‘The Arabian Nights’ was sojourning in
Granada and he rubbed a ring, or muttered an incantation, and a djin
appeared, and, after a short conversation, the palace and fortress of
the Alhambra rose from the ground. I don’t dispute the fact that it was
afterwards inhabited by mortals, that here ‘King Boabdil’ and his brave
garrison were starved out, and yielded the keys to the Christian
conquerors, and so passed away for ever. The splendid marble tombs of
Ferdinand and Isabella stand in the Royal Chapel of Granada, and relics
of the last defeat of the Moors are everywhere around. Even the banner
that the Christians bore as they entered the gates of the Alhambra on
January 2, 1492, still hangs, faded and tattered, in a glass case in the
chapel. And near it are the crown and sceptre of their most Catholic
Majesties; and in a little corner, all by itself, is a golden casket,
once the property of a gentleman named Columbus, who has been handed
down to posterity in connection with a yarn about cracking eggs to make
them stand upright, and is also the hero of other American stories. All
these things are solid and substantial realities; but the Alhambra
itself is the airy fabric of a vision, an artist’s fantasy, a poet’s
dream, a----

I am checked in my rhapsody by the remembrance of what I heard as I
wandered through these halls of heavenly beauty, and floated back along
the centuries until I was a Moor myself, and formed one of the proud
Sultan’s glittering train, and lived in the Alhambra in all its pristine
glory of Moorish arch and marble pillar, its masonry of transparent
lace-work, its softened hues of red and blue lit up with glowing gold,
its glistening Oriental tiles, its pomp, its splendour, its majesty and
might. And while I dreamed, and stood aside in the beautiful Court of
Lions to let the veiled beauties of the harem pass with their escort of
negro guards, a voice broke in upon my dreams, and brought me with an
earthquake shock back from the dead centuries to the pulsing, breathing
‘time by the clock'--and this is what the voice said: ‘H’m! it _is_
rather like the place in Leicester Square, isn’t it?’

With a cry of horror I looked up and beheld an ulster and a billycock
and a red guide-book. And presently one of the officials of the Alhambra
approached the ulster and the billycock, and showed it a book of
photographs of other ulsters and billycocks, taken on the spot, leaning
against the pillars of the Alhambra. Would the gentleman and his friend
like to be taken in the Alhambra? They would--and they were. I fled from
the scene of desecration. Ulsters and billycocks, with their hands in
their pockets, leaning against the marble pillars of the Alhambra! O
Moors, that wrought this fairy fabric, beautiful for ever, and to be
hallowed until all taste is dead, and barbarians--not from Barbary, but
from Europe--have made the world a rubbish-heap of the vulgar, the
gross, and the commonplace, if your disembodied spirits ever visit your
lost kingdom in the pale glimpses of the moon, what must you think of
these billycocks and ulsters, and of the people who wear them, and loll
in mustard-coloured tourists’ suits against your dainty walls, and are
taken like that and duly exhibited to other billycocks and ulsters in a
soot-begrimed hole called London, that I don’t suppose any Moor ever
heard of, and pointed to with pride as ‘Me and Jack taken in the
Alhambra--don’t you know!’

I saw everything in Granada as quickly as I could, for the town is cold
and the people are uncouth, and have a habit of looking upon the
foreigner as their legitimate prey. Extortion, robbery, cheating, and
imposition are rampant. To get about at all one must strew the ground
with pesetas. Difficulties are made specially by the guides, in order
that the silver key may be produced as often as possible. Being in a
hurry to get away, I took a little man and bade him take me everywhere
at once. But I told him if he took me to see a Murillo I would put my
navaja into him. (I have seen 7,482 Murillos, all genuine, in Spain, and
I am getting a little tired of them.) My little man took me everywhere;
but every five minutes he turned round and exclaimed, ‘Aqui es costumbre
dar una propina,’ which meant, ‘Here it is customary to give a tip.’
That wretched little man made me give pesetas to gardeners, servants,
coachmen, doorkeepers, officials, watchmen, porters, and every person,
male and female, who happened to be in the places or grounds I visited.
And I know as well as possible that he afterwards returned and went
‘whacks’ with the lot. I protested once or twice, and tried to make him
ashamed of himself, but he swore by all the saints that it _was_
‘costumbre.’ He admitted that it was an imposition, but he insisted that
the people were paid no wages, and so had to live on what visitors gave
them. When I had finished with him, however, I read him a long moral
lecture, and gave him to understand that he must not take all the people
who were not born in Granada for idiots. I’m afraid my protests were in
vain. The motto of Granada will still remain, ‘Aqui es costumbre to
fleece the foreigner.’

That which filled me with the greatest astonishment in Granada, after
the Alhambra, was the way in which all the dogs of the town attended
mass in the cathedral. Quite half the ladies who came in and knelt down
brought dogs with them. The dogs didn’t sit still, but went on
excursions into the different chapels, and visited the altars, and
certainly, when there, their actions could not be interpreted as showing
reverence or respect. I stood petrified to the spot when I saw a big
retriever who came in with an old lady deliberately ascend the steps of
the high altar, and sniff at the calves of the officiating priests.
Nobody took any notice, except a little acolyte, who pulled the dog’s
tail and then patted his head. Several cats being also in the sacred
edifice, there were times when some of the dogs left off sniffing around
and joined in a merry scamper after a startled tom, who fled and leapt
for refuge on to some upper portion of an altar, and looked down and
spat at his enemies. I have been in a good many cathedrals, but I never
saw dogs enjoy so much liberty in one before. The people of Granada are
exceptionally devout, which made me wonder all the more at the custom.
But to admit dogs is the custom, and, being the custom, I suppose nobody
thinks anything of it.

After the Alhambra, the great Mosque of Cordova is the most beautiful
thing in Spain. Built by the Moors in 796, it still stands a monument of
their glorious architecture. Charles V., in 1526, allowed a portion of
it to be destroyed to make room for an ugly cathedral in the centre of
it. When he saw the act of vandalism that the priests had persuaded him
to permit he was deeply grieved, and exclaimed, ‘You have built here
what you or anyone might have built anywhere, but you have destroyed
what was unique in the world!’ You can imagine how beautiful it must be
for the man who knocked down half the Alhambra to build himself a
hideously ugly drab-stone palace to be grieved at its partial
destruction. This mosque is the finest type in Europe of a temple of
Islam. It is a forest of beautiful marble pillars, supporting the most
exquisite Moorish arches. I spent a whole day in the mosque with an
intelligent little Italian, who knew every nook and corner of it.

When you get to Cordova you are never sure that you will see the mosque.
You may not find it. Cordova is built on the principle of the maze at
Hampton Court, but there is no nice kind gentleman on a raised platform
to extricate you from the labyrinth of lanes. Even the inhabitants
occasionally get lost, and wander up this street and down that for hours
until they accidentally get to their homes again. Many of the dogs in
Cordova have their owners’ names and addresses on their collars. This is
a great help to the inhabitants. When a Cordovan gets lost he waits
about and looks on all the dogs’ collars who run past him. When he sees
a dog who has his (the lost inhabitant’s) street on its collar, he
follows him, and is so guided home.

These things are not romances, but facts. Every street is exactly alike,
and every street is crossed and recrossed by dozens of other streets,
and they all wind in and out, and they are all about three feet
wide--some of them are not two feet wide. Woe betide the stranger who
ventures out alone, and does not know enough Spanish to ask to be guided
home again! He may spend a week easily in trying to find his way back to
the hotel.

The hotel in Cordova is one of the best in Spain, and is always crammed
with foreigners. The best time to study the guests is at _table d’hôte_.
I have always my ears and eyes open then. I am much amused by a young
Frenchman who has been to London, and is entertaining the other French
guests with an account of the marvels he has seen there. The English
live entirely on mutton-chops and beefsteaks, and always have sauce out
of bottles. They even put this sauce, which is black, over their pudding
and into their tea. On Sundays the English have no dinner. They only
have tea and cold meat. The French ladies hold up their hands and cry
out that never will they venture into such a horrible country. The
Frenchman then sends them into fits by describing the feet and boots of
English young ladies. Their feet are enormous, and they wear big cloth
boots with no heels to them. Many girls of only sixteen already have the
gout. Englishmen drink beer out of pewter pots in the highest society.
The Prince of Wales, even at his grand dinners at Marlborough House,
always has beer in a pewter pot by his side.

Near the Frenchman who has been to London and gathered so much
information sit an extraordinary family, who are the wonder of the
hotel. There is an old gentleman who speaks nothing but English, and is
married to a widow who speaks nothing but French, with two daughters by
a former husband who speak nothing but German. It is the oddest family
arrangement that I ever came across in my life.

Then there is a Russian gentleman who is three feet high and four feet
across. His head is a big dumpling with two eyes and something that with
the aid of a powerful magnifying glass you make out to be a nose. By way
of compensation he has a mouth that goes right across his face and turns
round each corner. His body is a larger dumpling, and for legs he has
two boiled jam rolls.

We sit down 150 at _table d’hôte_, and 149 people leave off eating and
sit in blank amazement when this little Russian commences operations
upon an orange. With a series of snorts and a couple of wriggles he gets
the peel off. He then puts the orange between his teeth and forces it
into his mouth by hitting it hard with both his fists. During this
operation the people opposite and on either side are continually ducking
their heads to avoid squirts of orange-juice in the eye.

As soon as the little Russian succeeds in closing his mouth he goes
black in the face, and remains so for about two minutes. At the end of
this time there is a loud gurgle; then the great mouth slowly opens, and
calmly and passively the owner allows the pulp from which the juice has
been extracted to fall upon his plate in portions. Horrible as this
description may sound, it falls far short of the actual truth.

The commencement of the last act of the Russian gentleman’s orange
tragedy is the signal for everybody to jump up from the table and rush
from the room.

There is another gentleman at _table d’hôte_--a Spaniard--who wouldn’t
be a bad fellow if, after he had eaten a couple of olives between each
course, he would put the stones anywhere except on the tablecloth. This
gentleman is short-sighted, and has a pair of eye-glasses two sizes too
large for the bridge of his nose. They drop into his soup, they come off
into his wine, and they sometimes fall into the gravy of the dish the
waiter is handing round. While the gentleman is fishing out his
eye-glasses he drops his napkin. When the waiter picks up the napkin and
presents it to him he drops his fork. By the time his fork has been
restored to him his eye-glasses are in the dish again.

As the process is repeated with every course that comes to him, the
gentlemen and ladies below him have several long waits during _table
d’hôte_.

Many people will remember the case of the English doctor who shot a
gipsy at Cordova. The gipsy was a well-known guide, who used to take
foreigners to see the great mosque, from the tower of which an excellent
view of Cordova can be obtained. Several tourists who had ascended the
tower with him on previous occasions had either been seized with
giddiness and fallen off, or committed suicide by throwing themselves
over the parapet. The suicide theory was the one most generally adopted
in the case of Englishmen, because the Spaniards still believe that all
Englishmen suffer from a malady called El Spleen, and that El Spleen
compels the sufferer to end his days and his sufferings in a violent
manner. There are no coroners’ inquests in Spain, and so no one ever
troubled much to inquire into the deaths, which, as far as public
opinion was concerned, were easily accounted for by El Spleen.

It was while turning to descend from the tower that Dr. Middleton found
himself suddenly grasped round the throat by the gipsy guide, Heredia,
and in such a manner that nothing but a shot from a pistol, which
luckily enough he carried in a back pocket, could free him from his
assailant. The doctor was acquitted, and the verdict was received with
applause by a crowded court. There can be no doubt of the impartiality
of Spanish judges, and of the friendly feeling which exists among
Spaniards for Englishmen. That this feeling should have been expressed
in loud applause in an open court in Cordova is all the more remarkable
when we bear in mind that the gipsies who swarm in the city were
actually thirsting for the blood of the Englishman who had taken the
life of one of their race, and were threatening revenge on all those who
ventured to express sympathy for Dr. Middleton. The gipsies of the south
of Spain have always been a power in the country, and there are
instances on record which prove that the Government has on more than one
occasion been compelled to conciliate them by granting them small
privileges. In the days following the revolution which led to the flight
of Queen Isabella the gipsies became for a time a terror to all
law-abiding and inoffensive citizens, and it was only by executing
summary justice upon gipsy culprits that their power was broken.

The gipsies both of Cordova and Granada still, however, maintain the
privilege of acting as guides to those who are foolish enough to take
them. Outside the Hotel Suizo in Cordova there are always dozens of them
hanging about. The reason of this is that it is utterly impossible for a
stranger to find his way about Cordova alone. The narrow streets cross
and recross each other in a perfect maze, and they are all exactly
alike, so that there is no landmark for the pedestrian to steer by, and,
as the streets are too narrow to admit carriages, a guide is a sheer
necessity.



CHAPTER VII.

COSAS DE ESPAÑA.


From Cordova I came on to San Sebastian, the Brighton of Spain. How
people can go to Biarritz while there is a San Sebastian, I cannot
imagine. I have never seen such a beautiful watering-place, or one
surrounded by such magnificent scenery. And all around is hallowed
English ground, for here and at Pasajes are hundreds of graves of
English officers and soldiers who fell in the siege. The graves on the
hill at San Sebastian are terribly neglected. Many of the stones are
overgrown with weeds, and the inscriptions are effaced. A few pounds
judiciously spent would put them in order again. Wild and picturesque is
the rough mountain cemetery of British heroes who fell in a far-off
land; but, unless something is done, a few more years will see many of
the headstones down, and the graves overgrown with weed and briar, and
then no man will know where our dead braves lie.

Pasajes, the quaintest place in the world, is within easy reach of San
Sebastian. It is a land-locked harbour, and looks for all the world like
a lake surrounded on all sides by hills, until you come upon a gully
between high, overhanging cliffs, when, after a few minutes’ sail, you
catch a glimpse of the open sea. One of the rocks is surmounted by a
castle tower, and is called Castillo de Santa Isabel. Pasajes is a
thriving town, and it is from this port that the Basques and Spanish
emigrants sail for South America; but it is doubtful whether it has not
missed its vocation. With a harbour the existence of which cannot be
guessed from the sea, it is an ideal pirate’s nest.

After a Spanish tour is over, the traveller divides Spain into two
portions--the portion that was conquered by the Moor, and the portion
that was not. Of the first portion he brings away a wondrous remembrance
of glorious architecture and graceful decoration; of the second portion,
the things which linger longest in his memory are the dances and the
bull-fights.

To me the worst part of a bull-fight was the barbarous cruelty to the
horses. They had _no chance_. They were simply brought into the arena to
be gored, and, when they fell, they were beaten most brutally with
sticks to get them to rise again. When they staggered to their feet, and
tottered in the death agony, the Spaniards shouted with laughter. Even
when the poor beasts lay in the last quiver of death, they were
barbarously ill-used by the assistants, who tore the harness from them
to put it on other victims. A more dastardly exhibition of brutality I
never witnessed in my life. One feels sorry for the bull; but at least
he has _some_ sport. His treatment is cruel enough in all conscience;
but he has four or five years of luxurious living in order to prepare
him for his death. The poor horses only come to the arena to be tortured
after wearing out their lives in the service of their master. Many of
them are poor half-starved cab horses, and can hardly totter when they
are spurred and beaten into the ring. If you say to a Spaniard that it
is cruel to beat a horse like this, he stares at you and says, ‘Ah, but
he is not a good horse, no vale na; he is worth nothing.’ There are
some points in a bull-fight which command admiration for skill and
dexterity. The espadas (the real heroes of the proceedings, the leading
actors and stars) perform brilliant feats alone with the bull, and often
incur great risks. But these would be far more worthy of admiration if
they were performed before the bull had been tired out by baiting and
weakened by loss of blood, instead of after. But it is useless
protesting to a Spaniard. Bull-fights are their national pastime--the
love of them is born with them, and you might as well try to mop up the
sea as to put them down or abate their cruelty.

The horses and the horsemanship in Madrid are unequalled in any other
town of Europe. The men ride as if they were born in the saddle. They
ride horses that would cause every head to turn in Rotten Row over the
stone-paved streets and in and out of the heaviest traffic. The
Andalusian horse is a beautiful creature, and here is groomed to
perfection. Everybody in Madrid keeps a horse and a carriage. Everything
is sacrificed for show and outward appearance. There are families who go
without meat for dinner that they may turn out in the drive in good
style.

In Madrid I learnt the national cure for a cold on the chest. You
squeeze the juice of an orange into a cup; you put in a heap of sugar,
and you fill up with a hot decoction of marshmallow, which they call
Flor de Malva. Then you go to bed and perspire. The next morning your
chest is easy. I tried the remedy and found it efficacious. The drink is
soothing and comforting. Try it. You need not wait till you have a cold.

Bad money is very common in all parts of Spain. Sometimes the coins have
merely undergone the process of ‘sweating,’ more often than not they are
altogether spurious.

Some years ago the newspapers announced that, on a certain day, new
five-peseta pieces, bearing as impress the head of the little King,
would be issued. No one had yet seen a coin with the effigy of the Rey
chico, and so the issue of the new coins was awaited with eagerness. A
gang of coiners immediately set to work, and early on the morning of the
day announced they set forth to circulate them. One of them would enter
a tramcar or omnibus and offer the conductor, when the latter came for
his fare, one of the ‘new coins.’ The conductor naturally remarked upon
it as the first he had seen, and examined it with interest. The
curiosity of the passengers was roused; everybody was eager to see the
new coins and the first portrait of the little King; and so when the
owner of it explained that he had just come from the Bank, where he had
received a number of them, and said that he was willing to exchange a
few of the new pieces for old ones, his offer was gratefully accepted.
Thus it happened that before a single genuine coin had left the Mint,
Madrid was in possession of an immense number of false ones.

In a previous chapter I referred to the Spanish theatre, and I mentioned
the peculiarities of the modern drama as it is understood in Spain. The
favourite dramatist of the day, the Most Excellent Señor Don José
Echegaray, had just produced a new drama at the Teatro Español, in
Madrid, which only took him thirty days to write, according to rumour.
The title of the drama is ‘La Realidad y el Delirio’ (Reality and
Delirium), and there is a good deal of both in the production. The plot
is a fair specimen of Echegaray’s method and the kind of drama which the
Spaniards accept as an evening’s entertainment, and so it may interest
the reader to hear all about it, more especially as since the Ibsen boom
set in our English critics have taken Echegaray under their wing.

Gonzalo and Angela are newly married, and, like most newly-married
folks, they love each other. Enrico is Gonzalo’s friend; he is also a
bad young man who has conceived an unholy passion for his friend’s wife.
One day he tells Angela that Gonzalo, who has just left home, pretending
that he was to make a long journey on business, is really about to pay a
visit to a young lady who lives in a certain house in a street close by.
Angela is much upset by the communication, and becomes a prey to various
conflicting emotions. Enrico, at last, while she is in a state of great
excitement, induces her to accompany him to a lonely house, from the
windows of which she sees Gonzalo entering the house of Julia, the young
lady previously referred to. Angela faints and falls into Enrico’s arms.

When she recovers from her swoon she despises herself in strong language
and goes home. Gonzalo returns. He tells his wife all she knows already,
but explains that he went to see Miss Julia in order to break off all
relations with her. This noble confession fills Angela with remorse, and
she bitterly repents her jealousy and wickedness. She spreads herself
out in forcible and poetic language, and at considerable length, over
the height of her husband’s love and the depth of her own impropriety.

Enrico has promised Angela never to see her again, and, desiring to keep
his word, he calls upon Gonzalo to bid him good-bye, previous to setting
out on a long sea voyage. Gonzalo, who loves his friend, refuses to hear
of such a scheme, and proposes instead that they should all go to Paris
together. Enrico hesitates and is lost. He consents to go to Paris.

On the way to ‘la Ville Lumière’ an accident on the line causes Gonzalo
to alight from the reserved compartment in which they are all travelling
together. Gonzalo smokes a cigarette and strolls on the line and
inspects the country; but he goes a little too far, and sees the train
starting on its journey again without him. He runs after and catches it
up (an easy matter in Spain, where five miles an hour is the express
speed), but in the hurry he jumps into the wrong compartment, which is
not the ‘reservado,’ but the one next to it. The night is dark, and the
light from the illuminated ‘reservado’ throws a shadowy picture on the
walls of a black cutting through which the train is speeding. Gonzalo,
looking out of the window, sees the ‘shadow on the wall.’ He recognises
the silhouettes of his wife and his friend. Suddenly he sees the shadows
approach each other. One shadow puts its arm round the other shadow’s
neck and kisses it. Presently both shadows’ arms are flung around both
shadows’ necks. Gonzalo waits to see no more. Hideous thoughts flash
across his frenzied brain. He opens the door of the compartment, gets
out upon the footboard, and is making his way along it to the
‘reservado’ to demand an explanation of the occupants, when his foot
slips and he falls heavily upon the line.

Gonzalo escapes death, but he loses his reason. He is picked up and
attended to, and in time he recovers from his wounds, only to be haunted
by the memory of what he saw that fatal night. He raves wildly, madly.
He does not know whether what he saw was real or a hideous nightmare:
whether it was reality or delirium. In this scene the actor takes the
middle of the stage and gives off some of the finest dramatic
soliloquies that Señor Echegaray has ever written.

There is one person beside the guilty parties who knows the truth. This
is the father of Gonzalo. He puts matters to rights by having a duel
with Enrico and killing him. Enrico, repenting his villainy, makes but a
poor defence of his life. The father of Gonzalo then forgives Angela,
and Gonzalo recovers his senses and embraces his wife, and the curtain
falls with Angela standing between father and son and representing,
according to the author, ‘the innocent victim of a villain’s lawless
love, purified by the suffering she has endured and the sorrow she has
known.’



CHAPTER VIII.

OFF TO AFRICA.


‘Africa’ has not a very taking sound about it. When I told my friends
and acquaintances that I was going to Africa, they had visions of lions
and snakes, and jungles and swamps, and they insisted on my taking with
me an armoury of guns and rifles, and a pharmacy of drugs and antidotes.
I am going, however, to keep as much out of the track of the lions as
possible; at least, I shall avoid the lions that have to be attacked
with firearms, but the lions that you attack with a visiting-card I
certainly hope I shall encounter. I have a beautiful letter of
introduction to the reigning sovereign of Morocco, which I hope to
present to him in his imperial palace (Dar Dabiba) when I go to
Fez-al-jadeed and Fez-al-baleed, and I am assured that he will give me a
royal reception, and trot out his dancing dervishes and his snake
charmers for my edification. I have also a letter of introduction to a
great Moorish General, a direct descendant of Othello, who will provide
me with an escort of soldiers when I go to Wazan, which is a long way up
country, and where I am bound to go, as I have a little business with
the Grand Shereef, who resides there. I shall be obliged to have an
escort, because the people of that district are so fanatical that there
is no knowing what they might do to me. Mogador, Tetuan, and Tangiers
are also on my visiting list, so that you may expect a great deal of
Oriental imagery and barbaric splendour in these pages. In Algeria I
shall sojourn awhile also, and I may pay a flying visit to Carthage,
where I am desirous of making a few inquiries with regard to the career
of a young lady named Salammbo. This is my programme as it is at present
shaped in my mind’s eye, Horatio. Whether I shall be enabled to carry it
out, of course, depends on circumstances; but I shall get over a good
deal of the ground mentioned, and I have no doubt I shall see some very
wonderful things, and meet with many exciting adventures.

At present the Fates have brought me no further than Marseilles; but
even the short distance from the capital of France to the Mediterranean
seaport was not accomplished without a struggle. We were unable in Paris
to secure seats in the ‘train of luxury’ one January night, but I was
told there was another train at 7.15 which would do the journey to
Marseilles in fifteen hours twenty-seven minutes by the time-table. The
platform was crowded with dukes and duchesses with their footmen, and
ladies’ maids and lap-dogs, who, like myself, had not been able to get
seats in the ‘train de luxe,’ and who were going by the 7.15, which was
a first-class express with sleeping-cars, and all that we should miss
would be the restaurant and the smoking-saloon. I brightened up at this
information, and we called several porters to take our luggage and
secure us a berth in the sleeping-car. The porters looked at us as
though we had asked for a bit of the sun to put in our pockets to keep
our hands warm. ‘A berth in the sleeping-car, monsieur!’ exclaimed the
first porter who recovered his breath. ‘Ha, ha! monsieur is joking; why,
they are all booked a week in advance to Marseilles at this season of
the year.’ ‘Well, then,’ I said savagely, ‘at least find us two corner
seats in a smoking-carriage.’ ‘I will try, monsieur,’ replied the
porter, and away he sped. In a few minutes he returned, shrugged his
shoulders apologetically, and delivered himself of the following elegant
sentence: ‘It touches me to the heart, and causes me profound sorrow, to
have to inform monsieur that every corner seat is taken.’

It was true. I had heard a good deal about the fight for seats in the
Marseilles express, but I realized it for the first time then. We were
dragged up the train and down the train; we got on this step and on
that, and peered into compartment after compartment. It was the same
tale everywhere. Every coach was jammed as full as a cattle truck. At
last there was a crowd of about fifty passengers for Marseilles all
clamouring for seats, and there was not a single vacant place. Then the
Chef de Gare most condescendingly informed me that he would put on
another carriage. We felt deeply grateful. Having paid £4 4s. for a
seat, we felt that the company was placing us under a life-long
obligation by giving us one for our money. So we bowed to the ground to
the station-master, and begged him to accept the assurance of our most
distinguished consideration. He accepted it. Then we offered handfuls of
francs to the railway porters, and these were also accepted. In return
for our largesse, we told them we required them, when the extra carriage
was joined on, to hold the crowd back until we had jumped in and secured
the corners. When that extra carriage came, it was Waterloo all over
again. But the arms of England (mine and Albert Edward’s) were finally
victorious, and we beat back four Frenchmen, a Russian, a German, two
Poles, a couple of Arabs, and a Greek, and captured two corners.
Directly we were seated the crowd poured in upon us, and at 7.15 we
steamed out of the station--eight in the compartment, and about fourteen
portmanteaux, nine hat-boxes, eight bundles of rugs, and ten parcels
piled up to the ceiling on the top of us. It was an hour before we had
sorted ourselves, and got the hand luggage packed away in the nets above
and under the seats. By this time we were stifling. Both the windows
were shut, the foot-warmers were burning hot, and the place was the
Black Hole of Calcutta multiplied by eight. Albert Edward requested the
permission of our fellow travellers to have the window a little way
down, as we were nearly asphyxiated. Albert Edward asked the French
passengers in French, the Germans in German, the Arabs in Arabic, and
the Russians in Russian; and they all admired his linguistic
attainments, but absolutely declined to allow the windows to be opened
one inch, or for one second. They inquired in their various languages if
he desired their immediate death. He replied that he did not; but that
was the catastrophe he wished to avoid for me. I joined in gently but
firmly, and brilliantly distinguished myself in all the languages except
the Russian. But the enemy remained immovable.

Suddenly Albert Edward had an idea. His German-Arab features relaxed
into an expression of sardonic glee. When everybody was dropping off to
sleep he put it into execution. He struck a whole box of Vesuvians, one
after the other. There was a simultaneous sneeze, six sleepers leapt to
their feet coughing and gesticulating and swearing, and in an instant
both windows were pulled down with a bang, and the fresh, pure air of
heaven rushed into the black hole.

Over the agonies of that long night of intermittent suffocation I draw a
partial veil. Now and again by some violent expedient, such as fancying
we heard an accident, or pretending that we had run over a man, or that
Mount Vesuvius in a state of eruption was distinctly visible on our
left, we succeeded in getting a window down for a minute or two; but
from 7.15 p.m. until 10.42 a.m. we were mercilessly smashed and stifled
in a compartment which was not a first-class carriage, but a tin of
compressed humanity.

At a little after eight o’clock in the morning we reached Avignon, and
here we had five minutes for refreshment. I should like to have been an
artist, to have made a sketch of the station as it appeared when the
passengers alighted and dashed wildly at a little table set out with
basins of hot coffee and rolls of bread a yard long. The ladies looked
lovely, as they always do, but the circumstances were trying.
Complexions are not at their best, nor is the coiffure at its apogee of
excellence, when you have been sitting all night long in your clothes in
a hermetically sealed railway-carriage. And the dirt and grime of travel
will stain the most delicate cheek, and the flying grit of the engine
will lodge occasionally on the most aristocratic nose, and get into the
most lustrous and beautiful eyes. I say it without disrespect, but we
were a seedy, pallid, untidy and unkempt lot that turned out on the
platform of Avignon in the morning sunlight, and scalded our throats
with coffee out of pudding-basins, and fought our way through the crowd
at the buffet with the three feet rolls that were at once weapons of
attack and defence. I was much interested in the duchesses _en
deshabille_, also in the footmen in chimney-pot hats, and in the ladies’
maids with smashed bonnets, who flew up and down the platform, vainly
trying to arrange their mistresses’ hair, and put them a little to
rights, with a bowl of hot coffee in one hand, and a roll in the other.
One clever maid put her coffee on the platform, and held her roll
between her teeth, while with her two hands she dexterously arranged her
lady’s back hair in an ornamental and chaste design, and stabbed it with
hairpins at the rate of ten a second.

But the most charming feature of that five minutes’ wait was to me the
way in which the dukes and earls and millionaires from the coupés and
the sleeping-cars were deprived of their coffee and roll by their
obedience to the will of their wives. A duchess said to her husband:
‘John, I think Fido wants a walk.’ And with her own fair hands she
dragged a big black poodle from under the seat, and gave him to the
duke. The duke accepted Fido without a murmur, and led him up and down
the platform by his chain for the whole five minutes. Another lady
handed her husband a little black-and-tan terrier to be exercised in a
similar manner. Before the bell rang I counted seven husbands all
walking their wives’ pet dogs up and down the platform, and some even
went outside the station with the dogs in order that the little dears
might not fancy themselves debarred by surrounding circumstances from
any of the privileges of the usual morning run at home.

All things come to an end in this world, and so did our journey to
Marseilles, which I have related to show that the troubles of African
explorers often begin much nearer home; but it is a wonder we didn’t
come to an end first. When, however, at noon I lounged on the harbour
quays, amid such a wild, dark, picturesque crowd as few other European
towns could produce, I was amply compensated for all my trials on the
road. I never saw such a collection of flashing eyes and coal-black hair
and sunburnt faces in my life. There were Italians and Spaniards and
Greeks, and all the fierce and dusky sons of the Levant; there were
Turks and Arabs and Egyptians and Syrians and African blacks, and the
natives added to the picturesqueness of the crowd with their swarthy
faces, fierce eyes, and splendid hair; and I stood with the motley crowd
and lolled with my back against the wall, sunning myself as they did,
and feeling beautifully Bohemian and lamentably lazy. It was such a
treat, after the harsh travelling of the North, to find one’s self wooed
by the warm breeze and kissed by the burning sun, that I couldn’t have
taken my hands out of my pockets and left off lolling against that south
wall if the Archbishop of Canterbury, or any other of my most intimate
friends, had come by. For a whole two hours did I and Albert Edward loll
about and frizzle and shut one eye, like dogs going to sleep, but I kept
my other eye open wide enough to take a few observations, and make a
note of them.

The Eastern custom of standing in a circle largely prevailed with the
crowd of idlers. Here was a group of Greeks in full costume in a circle;
there a group of Italians in a circle. The Marseilles sailors and
labourers, and the Marseilles old ladies and the Marseilles young
ladies, ‘circled’ also; they all stood and screamed at each other, and
shouted at the top of their voices (this is conversation in Marseilles),
but no one ever broke the circle.

The groups and the crowds of swarthy sons and daughters of the South
were not exactly the sort of groups and crowds one would like to be
alone in, with the Bank of England in one’s pockets. I should say one
might have manned a dozen pirate ships at any one quay in five minutes.
Knives were worn handy, and there was a flash of steel more than once
when argument became high. But for all that the men and women themselves
wore a good deal of common jewellery; watch-chains by the score I
counted across the woollen waistcoats of the sailors, and most of the
men had heavy earrings in their ears. The scarlet sashes worn round the
waists, the blue and green plush trousers, and the bright orange and red
handkerchiefs twisted over the heads of some of the women, turban
fashion, imparted to portions of the crowd an operatic look, and I
expected every minute to hear them commence a chorus.

I had my boots blacked on the Quay du Port, and a marvellous boy in rags
performed the office. Murillo might have been tempted to come out of his
grave to paint him. When everything else fails, and I am quite tired of
respectable life, I shall come to Marseilles, and spend the rest of my
days in lolling on the quay and basking in the sun.

Yet perhaps I had better wait before I finally make up my mind on the
subject of Marseilles, for down the harbour on my right there lies at
anchor the ship which is to carry me across the blue Mediterranean to
the African shore. And who knows?--I might like Algiers better.



CHAPTER IX.

ALGIERS.


‘High Street, Africa,’ is a very nice address to give to your creditors
or to people who worry you with letters about nothing at all, and
require an immediate and categorical answer; but it is not an address
which facilitates the reception of the latest news from England. I have
been able to leave nothing more definite at home for the guidance of the
officials of the International Postal Service. For this reason I am in a
state of the most blissful ignorance as to what is happening at home. I
am sitting in the sun, I pluck oranges, gather bananas and prickly
pears, and go into the garden after breakfast and pick green peas and
dig up new potatoes. When you are where you can do this in the first
week of January, it would be the concentrated essence of idiotism to
bother yourself as to who is the responsible person for clearing away
the snow and the slush that have stopped the traffic of Downing Street,
and converted legislative pedestrianism into a process of slipping and
sliding, and coming down bang on your back.

I like High Street, Africa, very much indeed. I have got so far along it
as the Djur-Djura Hills, among the Atlas Mountains. I am on friendly
terms with the great mountain tribes of Kabylia, and the lion and the
panther are my next-door neighbours. But I did not get so far all at
once, and as the process of getting there has been to me both novel and
instructive, I fancy it may be the same to some of my readers--say
eighteen out of the twenty millions. The other two millions can skip
this chapter if they don’t care about it, and read the advertisements at
the end of this volume.

We left Marseilles, not by the Messageries, but by a much more ‘up to
date’ line--the Compagnie Transatlantique. A more magnificent vessel
than the _Ville de Tunis_ it would be hard to find in the Mediterranean
service, and she rushes through the water at the rate of
nineteen-and-a-half knots an hour. But oh, that ‘awful night at sea!’
Tell me no more of your blue Mediterranean. I had it black--black and
furious. It blew a gale nearly the whole voyage, and the ship rolled to
such an extent that it was impossible to lie in one’s berth. All night
long it was a hideous crash of crockery and furniture, piteous groans of
men, and the terrified cries of women, and the day brought no relief.
For twenty-eight long hours did we roll from side to side in the trough
of a raging sea, expecting every moment that the ship would roll an inch
too far and go right over. If you don’t know what it is to feel for a
night and day that you are going to be drowned in a minute, you won’t
appreciate the feelings of the poor bruised and battered and bilious and
broken-hearted passengers who sailed with me over that five hundred
miles of misery that separates France from Africa, Marseilles from
Algiers.

We made Algiers shortly before midnight on Sunday. But our troubles were
not over. Beautiful in the moonlight lay Algiers, the houses and mosques
of the Arabs glistening in pearly whiteness above the long line of
lights of the European quarter, and the whole shut in by a background of
far-off hills of snow. But we had to get there, and the ships don’t go
up to the quays. To the terror of the timorous it was explained that as
soon as the ship’s doctor had gone ashore, and certified that we had no
cholera or infectious disease on board, we should be fetched off in
small boats by Arab boatmen. And so we were.

There came about fifty boats manned by wild-looking Arabs. They crushed
round the steamer shouting and swearing at each other, and gesticulating
to attract the attention of the passengers. When at last the signal was
given they swarmed up the sides of the ship, and at once laid hold of
all the luggage that was unguarded. Two or three men would lay hands on
a bag and fight over it. Presently all the hand-bags and the rugs were
in the boats; but some of the passengers found themselves in one boat,
while their rugs and bags were being carried ashore in another. We
managed to keep our things together, but for a quarter of an hour we had
a bad time of it, and I had begun to doubt that the French had ever
conquered Algiers, because these boatmen were so much like pirates.

When we landed, we were taken in tow by a handsome, barefooted Arab lad
of about seventeen, who insisted upon shouldering all our bags and rugs,
and putting a heavy portmanteau on his head, and conducting us to the
Custom House. Here, to my utter astonishment, the Custom House officer,
instead of asking if we had tobacco, cigars, eau-de-Cologne, or spirits,
demanded sternly if we had any ‘verdure.’ I hesitated before replying. I
have a considerable amount of verdure. I am as green in some things as a
country bumpkin, but I hesitated to confess it in public. I might have
parried the question with a joke, by asking the grave official if he saw
any verdure in my eye, but his solemnity of manner overawed me. I
ventured to ask what he meant by verdure. A French officer attached to
the Bureau Arabe, who had crossed with us and become friendly, hastened
to the rescue, and explained that ‘verdure’ means ‘green stuff’ at the
Custom House. The officials were merely anxious to know if I had any
fruit, flowers, or vegetables in my baggage.

The key to the enigma was soon supplied. Algeria is in a state of morbid
terror lest the dreaded phylloxera should be imported from France and
destroy her vines. Not a green leaf, not an orange, not a flower is
allowed to pass the Custom House. I assured the official that I had
nothing of the sort, when, with a sudden yell, he sprang at me and
seized me by the coat. Two soldiers ran to his assistance, a crowd
gathered around me, and, amid the indignant cries of the multitude, a
poor little faded rosebud was torn from my buttonhole. I had taken it
from the dinner-table on board ship, put it in my buttonhole, and had
forgotten it was there. I believe that the rosebud was put into a boat
at once, rowed out ten miles to sea, and sunk in the Mediterranean by
means of a big stone tied to its stalk. My own fate was less terrible. I
was severely lectured and allowed to pass, but for many days afterwards,
when I walked abroad in the town, the inhabitants turned and gazed after
me with scowling faces, and muttered imprecations on the head of the
‘Sale Anglais,’ who had basely endeavoured to introduce the phylloxera
into Algeria.

Once free of the Custom House, Achmet, our young Arab, conducted us to
hotel after hotel. All were full. At last we succeeded in getting two
rooms on a top landing. Achmet carried our luggage up, and then asked us
for the ticket of the heavier portmanteaux, which were in the ship’s
hold, and could not be got out till the morning. I hesitated, but Albert
Edward instantly handed it to him. ‘Trust him,’ he said; ‘an Arab never
betrays a trust.’ And so Achmet walked off with the ticket of our
portmanteaux.

At nine the next morning ragged, barefooted Achmet knocked at our door.
He wanted the keys of our baggage to pass it at the Custom House. We
gave them to him, and in an hour the lad came to the hotel and brought
the baggage, and returned the keys. And not so much as a handkerchief or
a pair of socks had disappeared. To me this is one of the most wonderful
features of my journey. Here was a lad--almost a beggar lad--utterly
unknown to us, we could not even recognise him in the crowd of Arabs
that haunt the quays, and we had trusted him blindly and implicitly with
the sole custody and control of valuable property. I shouldn’t like to
try the same experiment in London or anywhere else. And it wouldn’t do
to try it in Algiers with a European boy of the same position. This is
one great feature of the Arab character. Trust them, and they would die
rather than betray the trust; suspect them and guard against their
dishonesty, and they will glory in robbing and tricking you at the first
opportunity.

For his trouble and his civility I gave Achmet a five-franc piece. He
grinned and smiled and chuckled, and tied it up in a piece of rag, and
put it in his bosom. I asked him what he was going to do with it. ‘Ah!
monsieur, it will help to buy me a wife,’ replied Achmet, and then he
told us how he was saving up to get £5 that he might buy a wife. An old
woman had told him of a very pretty girl, and the father only wanted 125
francs for her. I engaged Achmet there and then to do all my little
commissions for me, and to accompany me to the Arab quarter, and show me
everything; and I promised him that if he was good, before I left
Algeria I would give him the balance he needed, and leave him a happy
married man.

The Arab marriage system is curious but simple. There can be no love and
no courtship about it. That must come after marriage, because the Arab
husband never sees his wife’s face, or speaks to her until the marriage
ceremony has been performed. Old women are the match-makers. They see
the Arab girls at home, and describe their beauty in glowing Eastern
language to the eligible Arab men. A young fellow is kind to an old
woman, runs errands for her (I am speaking of Achmet’s class now), and
in return she gives him ‘the straight tip’ as to whose daughter to buy
for a wife. Achmet had saved his old lady friend from being insulted by
a drunken Zouave, and she had rewarded him by telling him of the
beautiful Saidah Bint Mohammed, the fifteen-year-old daughter of
Mohammed Ben Omar, the old Arab donkey-driver of the Upper Town. Papa
wanted 150 francs, but he would take 125. Achmet was in great terror
lest some other young fellow should hear of the bargain first.

These young Arab women are rarely seen in the streets. The old women and
the divorced women (women sent back to their fathers) go about, but
closely veiled, so that only the eyes are visible. The Arab divorce is
curious, and, like the marriage system, singularly easy. An Arab with
too many wives who wants to get rid of one, or the poor Arab with one
who wants a change in his domestic circle, says to the wife, ‘I divorce
thee.’ This he must say three times at a week’s interval. The girl then
goes back to her father, and takes all her jewellery, and any property
she brought with her. Divorce, however, is not very frequently resorted
to. Husband and wife jog along together. Jealousy does not exist on the
female side, and the wife has very little opportunity of causing her
lord uneasiness. There is nothing in the domestic arrangements to cause
words. The Arab husband does not dine with his wife, and it never enters
into her head to object to his latchkey and late hours at the café.

The system of polygamy prevents the poor Arab from feeling the pressure
of a large family, and the labour market is not affected by female
competition. These people escape the difficulties of our London poor. A
man’s sons work for him at a very early age, and the daughters are all
marketable. When they are very pretty they are really valuable property.
Besides this, the Koran _commands_ charity, and there is no such thing
as an Arab who has been true to his faith dying of hunger. Arabs, again,
are forbidden by their religion to drink intoxicants. An Arab can cross
Africa from Morocco to the Soudan with nothing in his pocket. Shelter
and food are offered him gratis by every tribe he meets. The rich help
the poor, not as an act of charity, but as an act of religion. Islamism
does not at present enjoy the benefit of the teaching of the Charity
Organization Society.

With Achmet to accompany me, and Albert Edward to exchange Arabic
pleasantries with the natives, I have been able to sit among them at
their own cafés, to chat with them in their bazaars, and to visit some
of them in their homes. To me this has been more instructive than
wandering about the famous old town of the pirates and its picturesque
environs. No one can look without emotion for the first time on this
once blood-bespattered spot, on the wild African coast from which the
scourges of Christendom sailed forth to sweep the seas and then desolate
the neighbouring lands; to bring back thousands of slaves--the men to
toil their lives away in cruel bondage, and the women to be sold in the
great market to the wealthy lords of vast harems--no one, I say, can
look upon this spot without feeling stirred and interested. But, after
all, the proper study of mankind is man. The condition of a race
existing is a more useful study than the story of a race which has
passed away. Algiers has had its Dey, and now it has its
Governor-General; but I doubt much whether the Arabs of Algeria are
really fonder of the French soldiers than the Christians of old were of
the Moorish corsairs.

The best way to get an idea of Algiers as a whole is to row out into the
bright blue bay. Then you see as pretty a picture as ever was sent to a
Royal Academy. The town seems to rise from the sea in a series of
shining white marble terraces. Above the European quarter lies the old
Arab town--white and weird and wonderful. But it is the background that
makes the picture. The glorious green heights that frame the landscape
are dotted with French villas and Moorish palaces, amid the rich
colouring of tropical fruit and flower, and, high over all, stretching
far away into the dim distance, are the snowclad summits of the Atlas
Mountains.

But the greatest beauty of all lies in the sky and the sea and the sun,
and the ever-glowing, smiling landscape. You can’t describe this sort of
thing--at least, I can’t. My stock of adjectives is small, and I should
exhaust it in a paragraph if I tried to depict the loveliness of this
favoured spot.

The best of scenery soon palls on me, but the ever-changing, ever-moving
crowd never does. I should like to have the great gathering-place of
Algiers, the Place du Gouvernement, packed and exported to London for my
especial benefit. Always at my dark hour, when I begin to wonder whether
razors or poisons or water-butts are the best solutions of the enigma of
life, I would go and sit down on the Place du Gouvernement, and my dark
hour would give way to the dawn--nay, to the full glory of the noonday
sun. What a marvellous crowd it is that saunters up and down! The
stately Arab, spurning the ground as he paces it in white burnous; the
gaudy Moor, in his bright blue, gold-embroidered jacket, short white
trousers, and red fez; the Jew, with his yellow turban, his black
jacket, and his many-coloured sash; the black Bedouins of the desert;
the Greek; the Turk; the Maltese; the swarthy, fierce-eyed Spaniard; the
French Zouaves and Turcos; the raven-haired, lustrous-eyed daughters of
Spain and Southern Italy; the Arab woman, veiled upwards to the nose and
downwards to the eyes--how you wonder what they look like behind that
tantalizing gauze!--the Jewess, with her straight silk robe and
slippered feet--all these races mix and commingle with the dandy
Frenchman and the commonplace Englishman, and make a ‘bit of colour’
which it would be hard to find equalled anywhere.

How one despises broadcloth and chimney-pot and all the sober hues of
cockneydom as one gazes on this scene! I feel that even I might begin to
find a few minutes’ pleasure in life if I could only dress myself up in
one of these romantic garbs and wear a bright-coloured sash instead of
braces, and shining buff boots or scarlet slippers. If I could wear
these things and have a fierce black moustache and a turban or a fez, I
am quite sure the world would also wear a different aspect. Of course I
may be wrong. It is quite possible that these picturesque people who eye
me as I pass are envying me my prosaic billycock hat and my
tallow-coloured complexion and my commonplace black coat.

How these people ever get about Algiers without spoiling their finery is
a great mystery to me. I have not been out five minutes before I am
mud-colour from top to toe--not black mud; that does not exist here--but
a brown-coloured mud, which dries _café-au-lait_, or fawn colour, and
shows up splendidly on your dark garments. The roads of Algiers are
awful. They are sometimes a foot thick in light, liquid mud. If you take
an open carriage, you might as well put the mud on with a
whitewash-brush at starting to save trouble. The administration of
Algiers does not worry itself about such a thing as road-making or
road-sweeping. The mayor is a learned professor, and the council
probably join with him in learned discussions on abstruse questions.
They never do anything for Algiers.

To take a good drive in the neighbourhood you want nerves of iron. One
Sunday I drove a roundabout way to our Lady of Africa, the church that
stands on the summit of the high hill of Bou Zarea. Two little Arab
horses drew me, and the driver left the path to them. He only attended
to the pace, which was the maximum all the way. Go up the side of a
house and down the side of a house in an open carriage at full speed,
then dash round the house on the extreme verge of the gutter, then,
without getting out of the carriage, make your steeds jump from the roof
of one detached house to the next, then drive straight across a row of
roofs, taking the centre and never turning to the right or the left
merely because a stack of chimneys is in the way--do all this, and you
will then be able to understand the sort of drives my coachman takes me
in Algeria. I am told the precipices and the ravines we pass over and
the mountains we scale are grand and glorious. I can’t say; I always,
when I come to them, shut my eyes, and wonder whether they will think to
join my pieces together before they pack me for transportation to
England, just to see if I am ‘all there.’

Our Lady of Africa stands upon a precipice overlooking the sea. Here I
saw a ceremony which is, I believe, unique. The priests and the
acolytes, and the whole religious procession, filed out after prayers
and stood on the brow of the precipice. Then began a grand and beautiful
service. The priest ‘blessed the sea,’ and then performed a solemn
funeral service for all those who have died therein. It was a very
impressive service, and it was a very lovely idea. Some of us were so
touched by the solemn ceremony at the edge of that vast grave that we
broke down a little. Amid the sad-faced women who stood around there
were evidently some to whom the prayers for the dead who lay beneath the
sad sea-waves brought back the loved face lost, the vanished hand, and
the sound of the voice for ever still. The ceremony is one no visitor to
Algiers should miss, but it leaves a sadness on the mind which does not
soon pass away.

The interior walls of Our Lady of Africa are covered with votive
offerings from the faithful, chiefly pictures of wrecks and narrow
escapes by land and sea, from fire and water, which are intended to
commemorate the miraculous intercession of the Holy Virgin; and there is
also to be seen a very quaint statue of the Archangel Michael, usually
hidden behind drapery, and which is said to be worth a hundred thousand
francs, being made of solid silver. It is the property of a
confraternity of Neapolitan fishermen. The church of Our Lady of Africa
is the place of worship of Mediterranean seafarers, irrespective of
nationality; and Spanish smugglers, Italian fishermen and French sailors
forget their differences when they kneel down in prayer before her
shrine.

The village of Bou Zarea, which is built on a slope of the mountain,
lies 1,300 feet above the sea, and from it you can get some idea of
what this coast must have looked like in the days of the Deys and the
pirates. Every prominent point is studded with the ruins of a fort, or
the tomb of a saint. These tombs, properly called koubbas, but usually
styled marabouts by the French, are often exceedingly picturesque. Just
behind us, half a mile up the mountain, there is the koubba of Sidi
Naaman, a venerated patriarch who worked miracles while in the flesh,
and whose fame is still green among the Arabs. But this is but one in a
hundred, or a thousand, and there are few pretty spots on the seashore
or in the mountain without a koubba.

One day, while wandering in the hills, I came upon one of these koubbas,
the tomb of a very celebrated marabout, whose life had been one of
holiness. I was quite alone, there was not a living soul to be seen, so
I opened the door of the mausoleum and walked in. To my surprise, I
found inside the tomb a beautiful bed hung with gorgeous draperies, and
by the side of the bed was a little table, on which stood a plate of
oranges, a plate of bananas, and a plate of dates. I fancied I had
mistaken somebody’s one-roomed house for a tomb, so I crept out
cautiously and walked away. The same evening, while talking with a
French officer, I related my adventure, and he explained the mystery.

The beautiful bed was for the marabout to sleep on, the food was for his
refreshment. After sunset all holy men are believed to rise from the
earth and lie upon the more comfortable bed, and take a little light
refreshment. Some Arabs go so far as to put a pipe and some tobacco and
a box of lights on the table, in case the dead saint should like a
smoke. What a delightful idea of death! Why, the grave would lose all
its terrors to some men if they could be sure of a pipe after dinner!



CHAPTER X.

SAINTS AND SINNERS.


I bring a message from across the seas. I am requested by the venerable
Father Antoine, of the monastery of La Trappe, at Staouëli, near
Algiers, to make it known that the Trappists of Africa are very anxious
to have an English brother among them. The monastery is delightfully
situated. Its advantages are that you take a vow of perpetual silence;
you only have one meal a day, which never includes meat; you labour
healthfully in the fields, and, by way of recreation, you dig your own
grave. The English brother will occasionally be relieved of the vow of
perpetual silence, because his duties will be to receive the English
visitors and conduct them over the monastery. I am absolutely in
earnest. The request is a _bonâ-fide_ one; and an English Roman Catholic
willing to enter the order will be most heartily and cordially received.

I was much inclined to stay myself. I didn’t mind the work and the
grave-digging and the vegetarian diet. I am sure many of my ailments
would have disappeared under the treatment. My stumbling-block was the
vow of silence. In the interior of the monastery silence is rigorously
enforced. Even visitors, after they pass the inner portals, are
requested to hold their tongues. I couldn’t do that even for ten
minutes. I tried hard, but every now and then I found myself whispering
a remark to my companions. The good Père Antoine smilingly rebuked me
with a warning finger, and the silent Trappists gazed at me in mild
remonstrance. No ladies are under any circumstances admitted. The utter
impossibility of a woman remaining silent anywhere or under any
circumstances is probably the reason for this rigorous exclusion.

On the day that I drove to Staouëli and visited the famous monastery,
the African sun was pouring down its fierce rays from a sky of the
deepest and intensest blue. The vast fields of scented geranium, from
which the Trappists distil a famous perfume, were bathed in a great
white heat. There hundreds of cattle lay about and lolled in the sun,
and the great palm-trees in the glorious gardens of the monastery cast
their long shadows over such a wealth of fruit and flower as I have
never seen before. ‘If it is sad to live at La Trappe, how sweet it is
to die there,’ says an inscription on the walls. I don’t want to die
there, but I am sure I should not have found it sad to live and labour
amid such calm and beautiful surroundings, ‘the world forgetting, by the
world forgot.’ It must be a very comfortable existence. All the brothers
I saw looked very happy. No posts, no telegraphs disturbed the calm
serenity of their labours, and they all sat down to their one daily meal
with an appetite and a digestion that filled me with a great envy.

I breakfasted at La Trappe. Brother Dominic spread the feast, and Father
Antoine himself uncorked the wines--made on the premises--with which the
dainty fare was washed down. I was the only visitor, so I breakfasted in
solemn state alone. I had first an excellent omelette, then some cold
sweet potatoes, then some cheese and salad, then some bread and honey,
then some raisins, some oranges, and some bananas, and after I had
drunk a bottle of red wine, the good father produced a bottle of
exquisite white sweet dessert wine; and after that I had coffee and a
glass of the famous Trappistine liqueur. Father Antoine and Brother
Dominic waited upon me hand and foot. They piled my plate and filled my
glass until I was obliged to cry, ‘Hold! enough!’ only I expressed
myself more politely. And then I was shown to the shaded seat in the
garden, and told that if I liked to enjoy a cigar under the palm-trees,
the brother would look the other way.

I have a few pleasant memories to look back upon--green oases in the
arid desert of my life; but there are none so fraught with calm and holy
peace as that hot January day I spent with the good kind brothers of La
Trappe in their African home. They showed me everything--their cells,
their beds, their library, their kitchen, their farm, their winepresses,
their _laboratoire_, their stables, their cattle, their thousands of
cocks and hens and pigeons and rabbits, and then they loaded me with
ripe oranges and bananas plucked from their own trees, and choicest
roses gathered from their own gardens; and all they asked me in return
was to mention in my book that they wanted an English brother to come
and live among them. Go, English brother, go; and I promise you you will
be happy--far happier than staying in the turmoil of the world, to
endure its thousand worries and heartaches and disappointments. Go and
tell Father Antoine that the Englishman who smoked a pipe, and who
_would_ keep talking in spite of the rules, kept his promise, and sent
you out to dig your own grave, and to make the English visitors who
don’t speak French welcome to the African home of the world-famed monks
of La Trappe.

On the evening of the day that I visited La Trappe, I assisted at a very
different scene. I received an invitation to be present at the Feast of
the Assaouaï, a kind of religious fête, held in a Moorish house in the
Rue Ben Ali, a narrow street in the top of the Arab quarter. The Arab
quarter is a sight in itself. It is a labyrinth of narrow streets of
steps and jumbled houses. You can only pass along two abreast, and the
roofs of the houses hang over and almost join. To get to any given
house, you must have a guide; for there are scores of streets crossing
and recrossing one another, and they are all alike. Achmet conducted me
at night to the Rue Ben Ali, and I witnessed a scene the like of which
is to be seen nowhere else in the civilized world. I found myself in the
courtyard of a Moorish house, open to the sky. Above me glittered the
bright stars in a vault of blue. The courtyard was crammed with Arabs,
and French and English ‘strangers.’ Next to me, standing on a chair, was
Miss Jones of Clapham, with her mamma. I wondered how they got there,
and what they thought of the Moorish ladies, who, dressed like the
chorus in the Eastern extravaganza at the Gaiety Theatre, sat outside
many of the houses in the narrow streets, and addressed endearing
blandishments to the male passers-by. I blushed a little at much that I
passed on my journey up the Arab quarter; but Miss Jones of Clapham and
her mamma were possibly protected by their innocence from knowing what
it meant. Before the Feast of the Assaouaï was over, they must have had
their innocence severely put to the test; but I am bound to say they
never blushed once.

The performance commenced with a dance of Moorish girls. The girls were
lovely, and they were gorgeously dressed. They danced the Oriental
dance, which is, perhaps, as absolutely and indelicately suggestive as
any dance known to ancient or modern times. The French ladies present
muttered ‘Mon Dieu!’ under their breath. Miss Jones of Clapham struggled
for a closer view. Mamma pursed her lips a little, and once I thought I
heard her groan, but she stood on tiptoe until a Moor’s fez got in her
line of sight. After the dance, the girls sang a love-song. Achmet
explained the burthen of it to me, when I heard Miss Jones say to her
mamma that it was very ‘sweet.’ I felt convinced that Arabic didn’t form
part of a young lady’s education at Clapham seminaries. What the natives
who understood the song and appreciated the dances must have thought of
the English young woman who almost jumped on the Arabs’ backs to get a
good view of the proceedings, I have been wondering ever since.

After the songs and dances, the dervishes commenced their performances.
A young dervish jumped into the ring, and swayed himself backwards and
forwards for ten minutes, shouting, ‘Allah! Allah!’ while his motions
became so rapid that I felt giddy. Then, having reached the required
pitch of fanatical fervour, he began to cram live scorpions into his
mouth, and bite off their heads and tails. I confess that if I could
have got out of the crowd, I should gladly have been sick. Miss Jones of
Clapham only murmured that it was very wonderful. Another fanatic, after
swinging round till he fell down foaming at the mouth, ran skewers
through his nose and under his eyelids, and left them hanging there
while he bit pieces out of a glass bottle and chewed them to powder.
Then he had an epileptic fit, or a paralytic stroke, and, as soon as he
had recovered, sat down to rest on a pan of live charcoal. He then ran a
knife through his tongue, turned his eyes out on to his cheeks, twisted
his ears upside down, and stuck his nose full of red-hot needles. After
this he bowed and retired, amid much applause, Miss Jones of Clapham
almost splitting her dainty little kid gloves in her demonstrations of
approval. Mamma, I am bound to say, whispered to her dear and
enthusiastic child that she was not quite sure that she could stand very
much more.

I didn’t think there could be much more to stand; but a very old Arab
gentleman stepped into the ring with a huge sharp-pointed sword in his
hand. The sword was passed round, and we all felt the edge and the
point. Miss Jones wouldn’t let it go for at least two minutes. The sword
was then held on the ground, point upwards, by two strong men, who lay
down to do it. The old Arab gentleman then coolly proceeded to roll up
his shirt round his neck, so as to leave his entire stomach bare. He
then turned to the audience to show them that it was bare. At last Miss
Jones of Clapham was disconcerted. Truth compels me to admit that she
ejaculated, ‘Oh, mamma!’ and for one short moment she looked as though
she would like to retire. But she recovered herself in a moment, and
nearly knocked an elderly French gentleman’s hat over his eyes in her
endeavour to get a nearer view. The Arab ‘undressed,’ after trying the
sword to see that it was firmly fixed, stepped back a foot or two; then,
with a little run, sprang in the air, and, throwing himself out, fell
with his bare stomach flat on to the point of the upright sword. He was
absolutely impaled, and in this position he spun round and round. I
turned away, and fancied I was on board ship again. If only there had
been a steward handy, I should have called him to my assistance with the
accompanying crockery; but Miss Jones of Clapham gave a little giggle,
and cried out in maiden wonderment, ‘Lor, ma! however can he do it?’

I stopped to see no more. Calling on Achmet to accompany me, I quitted
the dancing girls and the juggling Arabs and the self-mutilating
dervishes, and went out into the Rue Ben Ali. As I left the courtyard of
the Moorish house, I looked up, and high above me in the starlight, upon
the galleries of the house, I saw veiled Arab women looking down upon
the scene. I wondered what they thought of the unveiled, bare-faced
English girls who assisted, without a blush or a shudder, at such
disgusting and depraved exhibitions. When I told Achmet that many of
these young English girls would not be allowed to go to a stage-play in
England, except at the Crystal Palace, for fear their modesty should be
shocked, he opened his large Eastern eyes to such an extent that they
looked like a couple of full moons. He says the Arabs can’t understand
the Giaour women at all, and I don’t wonder at it. The French people in
the town are themselves shocked at the idea of unmarried girls assisting
at these exhibitions; but they are the first things that the English
girls ask to be taken to see. If I had a son, I should be very sorry for
him to accompany me to one. But English mothers take their daughters,
and so I am driven to the conclusion that either I am extra squeamish,
or that they are extra innocent. But the innocence that can detect
nothing improper in the dance of the Moorish girls ought to be wrapped
in cotton-wool, and taken back to the Garden of Eden in the days before
Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That is the only
place, and the only period, in which anyone would accept it as genuine.

In bygone times the Assaouaï were a powerful religious fraternity. The
founder of the order was an Arab, one Sidi Mohammed Ben Aïssa, and the
members, whose mission it was to fan the fanaticism of the people in
times of war, were all Arabs. But the Assaouaï of to-day are a mixed lot
of Arabs, Berbers, and Negroes. Nevertheless, they still exercise
considerable power over the imagination of their fellow-countrymen in
the more remote districts of Morocco and Tripoli, where they are often
the secret agents of rebellion. But in Algeria, owing to the revolts
fomented by them, ending all in slaughter and defeat, they have lost
their prestige; they are no longer ‘invincibles,’ only showmen living
upon the profits of their performances.

The climate of Algeria is fearfully trying to the temper. If the
Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury came to stay here
together, they would have words in a week. I won’t say they would come
to blows in a month, because they are Archbishops; but I think that two
bishops would probably fight. Everybody in Algeria who is not a native
becomes irritable and hasty and snappy very soon after landing. I, of
course, retain my usual placidity of manner; but Albert Edward is awful.
He bullies the landlords of our hotels; he challenges the post-office
officials to come outside and fight; he even presumes at times to
lecture me smartly upon my unreasonableness; and when he scolds the
waiters, I blush for very shame. I generally go afterwards to these poor
people and apologize for his violence. But I have to do it in secret,
for I am myself afraid of him. The other day he fell over a piece of
broken pavement in the Rue Bab el Zoued at Algiers, and his new hat went
flying into the mud. This accident he declared was due to the culpable
negligence of the authorities, and before I could stop him he had rushed
off to the Hotel de Ville, rung up the concierge, and was flourishing
his stick about, and giving most insulting messages to the mayor. His
language to the clerk at the Poste-Restante was really shocking. Here I
must say he had an excuse.

The method of doing business at the Poste Restante is not calculated to
put an Englishman in a good temper. If he comes and gives in his card,
he is handed all the English letters, and told to help himself. From
Mustapha (the English colony, and at once the Clapham and South
Kensington of Algiers) there comes a porter from the hotels. He
generally takes all the English newspapers as a matter of course. The
idea that anybody not residing on the Mustapha (a height above the town)
should have anything from England is scouted as absurd. My English
papers I only recovered after employing mounted Arabs to scour the hills
in every direction, inquiring at every villa and every hotel and every
farm where an English person resided.

I received a batch of letters nine days after their leaving London. They
were due in four. I believe that they had been given to a sailor who
came from an English yacht in the bay for letters, and mine evidently
went for a short cruise before they were brought back. One thing I would
impress on English people coming to Algiers--don’t have your letters
sent to the Poste Restante. If you do your time will be wasted, your
correspondence delayed, and your temper will become as uncontrollable as
my companion’s.

The Post-office clerks cannot read English names. To show the hash that
is made of them, I will quote from the list of fashionable arrivals at
an hotel given in a local paper. The arrivals are all classified under
the heads of French, Spanish, Italian, English, etc. Here is the English
list _literatim et verbatim_:

‘The Mistress Macandraw, Mr. Boom, Mr. Fegin, Mr. Fosdick, Mr. Dosgoity,
Mr. Billies, Mr. Plumb, Mr. Sliebel, the O’Rori, the Mistress Lady Jon.’
If the names are right, it is about the queerest collection of surnames
I ever came across.

Achmet has just come in to tell me that a lion has appeared at a village
some miles from where I am now encamped, and that his roaring has kept
the inhabitants awake all night. I am off. To see a real live lion
looking about for his breakfast, free and unfettered, is an unfulfilled
ambition of my life. Hastily we grasp our firearms, leap upon our Arab
steeds, and dash across the desert towards the hill where the lion is
seeking whom he may devour. Whether I shall be able to let you know the
result of our day’s sport will depend very much upon which gets the
better of the encounter--we or the lion.

Achmet, who brought me my letters and newspapers, also told me there had
been an execution in Algiers of an Arab who had been found guilty of a
very cruel murder. The guillotine is a fearful punishment for a Moslem,
because the guillotine cuts the head off, and Mahomet takes the faithful
when they are dead by the hair of the head in order to lift them up into
Paradise. The poor fellows who are cut in two at the neck are in a
fearful state, because when Mahomet takes hold of them by the hair of
the head the body will naturally remain behind on earth. In the
Mahomedan Paradise a gentleman with only a head would not be able to
thoroughly enjoy himself.

A public decapitation strikes terror into the hearts of the Arab
populace. The guillotine at Algiers is erected on a large open space in
front of the Arab quarter, and the ceremony is made as imposing as
possible, _pour encourager les autres_. Achmet told me that once when a
friend of his had been guillotined, the relatives had gone to the
Governor and begged the body and head back again. As a great favour they
had been given up to them on condition that they said nothing about it
to the other Arabs. When these people got the two pieces of their
departed friend home, they sewed his head on again with a thick string,
and then they practised holding him up by the hair to see if the
stitches would stand when Mahomet came to lift him into Paradise.

The Arabs are none too well treated by _their_ master. They have had to
suffer for France’s colonial policy. I don’t fancy that France makes
Algeria pay. It is a trinket on her watch-chain, and not the watch at
the end of it. Algeria is in debt. She costs France far more to keep
than she gives in return. The expenses of military occupation of the
Government are great, and the produce is small. The Arabs complain
bitterly of the excessive taxation; but they have suffered even more at
the hands of the Jews than of the French.

Nearly all the Arab farmers and landed proprietors are in debt to the
Jews. Their crops are mortgaged before they are gathered. One after the
other their houses and lands have fallen into the hands of the
Israelites. Money is dear. The legal rate of interest is from twelve to
thirteen per cent., but the Arab pays forty, and sometimes more. I have
been on some magnificent properties which only a few years ago belonged
to Arab Caïds and Sheiks; to-day the gaudy villa of the Jewish owner has
replaced the Arab house. They have passed from race to race at about
one-third of their value. The extortionate interest has accumulated, and
the property has gone to pay it.

Between the French Government and the Jew money-lender, the Arab
proprietors of land in Algeria have come to the ground, or, to speak
more correctly, have gone from it. How deeply the Arabs of Algeria feel
their position was expressed in 1871. Gambetta appointed Crémieux, a
Jew, Governor-General of Algeria. The great Arab chiefs flung down their
French decorations, resigned their official positions, and called on
their kinsmen to throw off the yoke of France. The rebellion was
crushed, the Arabs were slaughtered and fined and impoverished, and
to-day they sit and brood in a state of sullen resignation. The French
have good reason for keeping a strong military force in Algeria.

But I am wandering into a political discussion. Good gracious me! and
all my own personal adventures are going to the wall. I have spent so
many nights in the Arab cafés with Achmet, and heard so much of these
things from the natives, that they have saturated my mind. I hasten to
unsaturate it. Bother the Arabs and their grievances! let us go and see
the sights.

I told you I was just off to kill a lion. You will gather from the fact
that these lines appear in print that the lion did not kill me. We found
him, after a long search, in a lonely part of the Atlas Mountains. I
never shot anything in my life, so when Albert Edward handed me his
rifle I said, ‘No. Perhaps the poor beast is the father of a family who
are entirely dependent on him for support.’ ‘Oh, nonsense!’ was the
reply; ‘pray don’t let any idea of that sort interfere with legitimate
sport. Besides, fancy the triumph of bringing home a lion that you have
shot yourself. If you don’t shoot him I will.’ He levelled the gun. The
lion saw it. A piteous look came into the animal’s face. He gave one
roar of terror, turned round, and bolted off with his tail between his
legs. But he was not quick enough. Bang went the rifle, and the lion
rolled over on his side a corpse!

Then I felt that I ought to share in the honours of the day. I assisted
to pick the poor beast up, and we made a litter, and put him on it, and
carried him in triumph to the next village. We expected a grand
reception. To our intense surprise, when the inhabitants beheld the
dead lion, they burst out into savage cries, and shook their fists at
us, and cursed us in Arabic. We were arrested and dragged before the
Caïd, and then we learnt for the first time what our offence was.

We had killed the ‘show’ lion of the district--a lion that had been
imported at vast expense from the Zoological Gardens, London, and tamed
and taught to run about the mountains for the amusement of tourists. The
Caïd fined us £50 for destroying the property of the inhabitants, and
discharged us with a caution. We asked for the skin, and were refused.
That skin is to be stuffed and put up on the mountains in a natural
position. African travellers who visit this district can shoot the first
lion they meet now in perfect safety. They will injure nothing but the
stuffing.

One cherished illusion I shall, alas! leave behind me in the Sahara. You
know those beautiful lines the Arab addressed to his steed in the
poetry-book of our youth--

    ‘My beautiful, my beautiful, that stands so meekly by,
     With thy proudly arched and glossy neck, thy dark and fiery eye;
     Fret not to roam the desert now, with all thy wingèd speed,
     I may not mount on thee again--thou’rt sold, my Arab steed.’

The poem is long. But it shows that the Arab is devoted to his horse.
Well, I have seen the Arab’s devotion to his horse, and I’m very sorry
for the animal. The cruelty of the Arab to his steed is something beyond
expression. The Arab starves his steed and beats it mercilessly. He
works it to death. The steed is covered with raw and bleeding wounds,
and when the Arab wants to make his steed go faster he runs a sharp
stick into one of the open wounds. ‘My beautiful, my beautiful!’ O,
Poetry, what sins you have to answer for! I shall never read those
beautiful verses again without saying ‘Bosh!’ The Arab who loved his
horse, and the horse that was so beautiful, have gone over for ever, so
far as I am concerned, to the great majority--the majority of lost
illusions.

While in Algiers I was indebted to my coachman for much of my
information. My coachman was a Gascon, and he Gasconaded to his heart’s
content. He drove us about day by day, and told us stories which would
have made Baron Munchausen look to his laurels. I let him have his
fling, and then, in the language of the ring, I ‘took him on.’ I began
to tell him stories of England. He listened at first in calm and
childlike faith, but at last he saw that I was playing him at his own
game. Then the old African hills resounded with his Homeric laughter,
and he became my sworn friend. He slapped me on the back and said I was
a fine fellow, and he liked the English because they were not proud like
the French, but cracked jokes with a coachman.

My coachman’s friendship became gradually a little too obtrusive. One
day, having to rest his horses in order to take us a sixty-mile drive
into the interior the next day, and having drawn twenty francs on
account of his fare, he spent his spare time in drinking my health.
Unfortunately, he strolled about the town as well, and was continually
meeting me. Every time we met he insisted on shaking hands and slapping
me on the back. I didn’t mind it at quiet corners, but when I was
talking to the Governor-General and his charming daughters on the Place
du Gouvernement, I must confess that I was taken aback to find myself
suddenly embraced by my affectionate Jehu, who, in accents slightly
thick and alcoholised, called me his brother, and implored Heaven to
witness that I was his best friend. The Governor smiled, the lovely
daughters tittered, and I felt that my dignity as a distinguished
stranger had suffered a slight concussion.

But my coachman was quite sober on the morning of our departure. He
drove us to the quay, and refused any fare. He wept on both our
shoulders, and as the Arab boatman rowed us out to the ship, the brave
Gascon fell upon his knees upon the African soil and prayed that we
might soon come back and gladden his eyes and shake his hand and tell
him stories again.

Achmet, too, came to see us off. Achmet was married the day before we
left. I made up his five pounds, and he bought his little wife and took
her home. ‘Well, Achmet,’ I said, ‘did the old woman tell you the
truth?’ ‘Ah, Sidi,’ replied the young man, ‘I am the happiest young Arab
in all Algiers. Give me your name, that I may call the first son that
Allah shall bless me with after my benefactor.’ I didn’t give him my
real name, but I gave him my _nom de plume_, and so I dare say before I
visit Algiers again the followers of the Prophet will number among them
for the first time in the history of the faith a Mohammedan named
Dagonet.



CHAPTER XI.

MONTE CARLO.


‘The Beauty Spot of the Riviera’ is the flattering title which a
resident English physician has given to his book upon Monte Carlo. It is
getting difficult nowadays to give a new name to a place which has been
raved about, reviled, flattered, slandered, discussed, and described _ad
nauseam_. That it is a paradise is a fact as widely advertised as that
somebody’s soap is matchless for the complexion, and that somebody
else’s mustard is the best. It is a paradise--a fool’s paradise. All
that Nature could do to make Monte Carlo beautiful she has done. She has
painted the lily and adorned the rose in her endeavour to make the
famous mount queen of the Riviera. Monte Carlo is a beautiful poem set
to music; but the poem is the one in which the singer tells us that ‘all
save the spirit of man is divine.’ When I arrived in Monte Carlo, my
first impression was that I had made a mistake, and taken a ticket for
Kempton Park; but the scenery was slightly against such a theory. I
looked at the sea, and then I thought that in a fit of absence of mind I
might have got mixed on the railway and in my dates, and that I had been
landed at Brighton during the Sussex fortnight. The sun was hot, the sea
was blue, and the bookmakers and the backers that one is accustomed to
meet at a race meeting were airing themselves in light costumes and
yellow boots along the principal promenades. But palm-trees, and marble
staircases, and cacti and eucalypti, and prickly pear-trees, and sunny
mountain slopes dotted with white villas are not the characteristic
features of London-super-Mare. I gradually awoke to the fact that I was
on the Mediterranean, and at Monte Carlo in January; but you can
understand my being a little bit mixed at first when I tell you that the
only people I met during the first half-hour of my sojourn in the
principality were either English bookmakers, English backers, or English
racehorse owners.

Let me briefly trace the interesting history of a place which is now
world-famous, and is becoming every year more and more a place of
English resort. In the old days, when the railway came no further than
Nice, someone had permission from the Prince of Monaco to keep a
roulette-table in the old town. There were so few customers that the
game did not pay, and it was on the point of being given up when Blanc,
knowing that the doom of the German gaming-tables was imminent, began to
look about for a spot in which he could carry on his business when his
German premises were closed. He came to Monaco, and saw the situation.
He made an offer for the concession, took it over, and when the German
tables were closed he transported his business to the shores of the
Mediterranean.

All the world knows how the affair prospered, how Blanc died, how his
daughter married Prince Roland Bonaparte, and how the affair was turned
into a company. But what all the world does not know is that since
Blanc’s death the management has steadily degenerated, until it has
become absolutely objectionable.

A special Providence seems to watch over this delightful, romantic,
wicked, enchanting little spot. Monte Carlo escaped damage from the
earthquake which shattered the neighbouring places, and she is always
spared the snow and ice which occasionally remind one of winter in Nice.
She seems, indeed, to bear a charmed life, for nothing affects her
prosperity, and nothing damages her beauty. I fell an instant victim to
her wiles. I had not been in the place half an hour before I wanted to
come and live there for ever. Every turn reveals some new beauty, every
hour brings some fresh pleasure, and you begin to wonder how it is
possible that there can be so many melancholy looking people in such a
heavenly spot, unless you remember that the little ball rolls from
morning till night, and that the majority of people who come to Monte
Carlo come to gamble, and, as a natural consequence, to lose their
money.

From noon until eleven o’clock at night, despising the glorious scenery,
the tropical vegetation, the balmy air, and the glorious sunshine, the
great bulk of the people who come to Monte Carlo crowd round the
roulette and trente-et-quarante tables in a series of close, stuffy, and
gloomy rooms. The air and the sunshine are rigidly excluded. A dim,
religious, artificial light falls upon the tables and the faces of the
players. All is forgotten in the greed for gold. Faces are flushed,
hands tremble, bosoms heave, and the gold passes slowly and surely into
the coffers of the bank. Those who have lost fall out and go their way,
with heavy hearts, out into the mocking sunshine and the beauteous Eden
in which the ‘establishment’ has concealed its serpent. The winners stay
on, and plunge and plunge again, only to come to the inevitable end; it
is only a question of time. The unlucky lose at once, the lucky win at
first, only to make their ultimate loss the more bitter.

I have the whole place to myself--always excepting the gambling rooms
and the post-office. You can mostly find plenty of people losing all
their money at the former, and wiring home for more at the latter. I
came with the firm intention of climbing the mountain, basking in the
sunshine, taking long walks by the blue Mediterranean, and generally
enjoying the beauties of the poisoned paradise without paying toll to
the Strangers’ Club and Sea Baths Company (Limited). For a whole day I
resisted the temptation to play. I drank in the warm air, I feasted my
eyes on orange groves and avenues of palms, and gardens gay with the
flowers that come to us only in summer. I climbed the mountain, and
looked out over the hills dotted with white villas, and I looked down
upon the sea that lay like a lake of still blue paint far below. I
picked oranges and lemons from the boughs that hung down over the white
mountain roadways, and in the lightness of my heart I whistled ‘The Man
who broke the Bank at Monte Carlo,’ and shook my fist defiantly at the
palatial building which has drawn all men unto the rocky home of the
Grimaldis--with the accent on the rocky. I gambolled on the green turf
like a lamb, instead of gambling on the green cloth like a donkey--and
twenty-four hours afterwards a man with a stern set face and flashing
eyes stood opposite that palatial establishment and cursed it in five
different languages, specially studied up for that occasion. In spite of
all his resolutions, he had gone in ‘just to look on,’ and he had put
down five francs ‘just for the fun of the thing,’ and it had ended--ah,
you can guess how it had ended--that man had won 5,000 francs, and that
man was the man who didn’t mean to play.

Then, like all winners, I went back again and again to the rolling ball
that gathers all our moss. I didn’t mind losing--in fact, I only lost
the money I had won--but I hated myself for passing sunny mornings and
moonlight nights in a heated atmosphere, amid exciting and unhealthy
surroundings. It was so lovely out of doors, but Nature, decked in her
fairest garb, wooed me in vain. It is so with almost everyone who comes
to Monte Carlo. There is no one anywhere else, but the rooms are
crowded. The grounds are deserted; there is never a soul upon the beach.
Nobody ever goes out in a boat. Even the ocean at Monte Carlo is for
ornament, and not for use. And it is an ocean which, anywhere on the
English coast, would be a fortune to the proprietors of rowing boats and
sailing vessels and bathing-machines.

Still, in spite of my annoyance at my own weakness in yielding to the
evil influence of the place, I have managed to amuse myself and take a
few notes, other than those handed to me by a croupier on the end of a
rake.

One day there was an amusing incident in the rooms. An Englishman
arrived early, and, sitting down, crossed his legs, and stuck one foot
out in an attitude of ease. Suddenly there was a wild rush of everybody
to the tables, and Italian barons, Spanish countesses, and Russian
princesses fought with each other to get their gold and silver pieces on
to 17. The croupiers stared, the inspectors looked nervous, and when 17
came up the entire staff seemed petrified. What had happened? Had the
wheel been got at? Had some clever trick been played? Why had everybody
rushed to back 17? The croupiers looked about and saw every eye directed
at the Englishman, who, finding himself the object of so much attention,
blushed violently, and burst into a profuse perspiration.

Then a roar of laughter went round the room, and the croupiers and the
inspectors, and even the solemn attendants in livery, joined in it. The
mystery was explained. On the sole of the Englishman’s boot was the
number 17 in chalk. He had just come from his hotel, and that was the
number of his room, and the number chalked on the soles of his shoes
that the boots might recognise them and place them outside the right
door. We have heard of a man putting his own shirt on a horse, but it
isn’t every day that an entire company of gamblers put somebody else’s
boots on a number at roulette.

There have been the usual number of suicide stories flying about Monte
Carlo. Last night two young Germans were discovered in the gardens about
midnight; one had a pistol in his mouth, and the other had a clasp-knife
open, with the point pressed against his heart. When they were seized
they declared they were about to commit suicide because they had lost
everything at the tables.

But a German gentleman came forward who had heard the lads say to each
other a quarter of an hour before they were arrested, ‘Let us do it.
Someone will be sure to come along and see us, and we shall get a bit to
go away.’ This kind of trick is of the common or Monte Carlo garden
order, and has long since ceased to impose on the Casino officials.

In the good old days of M. Blanc, it was the custom (so the story goes),
directly a suicide was found, to stuff his pockets full of bank notes.
This was done to prove that his losses at play were not the cause of his
hurried departure from the shores of time. The last person who received
this generous treatment was, I believe, an American. He was found lying
in one of the quiet alleys of the beautiful grounds, with an empty
bottle, labelled ‘Poison,’ by his side. The secret agents of the bold
Blanc instantly stuffed his pockets full of gold and notes, preparatory
to giving information to the police. No sooner had they filled him as
full of lucre as he could hold, than the suicide leapt to his feet,
raised his hat, exclaimed, ‘Thank you very much!’ and went off to enjoy
himself with his newly-acquired wealth.

A morning in the little post-office that stands above the sea on the
terrace at Monte Carlo, and looks like the Paris Morgue’s understudy,
may be passed with profit by the student of men and manners. One day,
when the mistral (probably having found out that I had come to Monte
Carlo for the benefit of my health) was blowing its worst, I went into
the post-office and sat down in a chair and wrote telegrams to the
sovereigns of Europe, couched in brotherly language. I am in the habit
of doing this sort of thing occasionally when I feel sad. I never send
the telegrams, but leave them lying on the desk, saying to myself aloud
in the language of the country, ‘Ah, no; after all, I will write.’ It is
wonderful the respect with which you are treated in a Continental health
resort when it gets about that you have telegraphed to the Czar of
Russia, ‘Sorry can’t dine with you Wednesday, old fellow; gout keeps me
here;’ or to a Prince of the House of Hohenzollern, ‘Come and take
potluck with me Sunday week, if you are passing.’

Once in the old days before the war, when one could put one’s gulden on
the board of green cloth at Ems, at Wiesbaden, at Baden-Baden, and at
Homburg, I was caught in a storm in the woods above Ems, and, spying a
stranger standing under a dripping tree, I offered him half my umbrella.
When the storm was over, he thanked me and went his way. That night at
the tables we met again; he recognised me, and stopped and spoke to me,
and asked me if I had had good luck. It is astonishing how polite they
were to me at the tables after that. Although I only played in modest
silver the croupiers would do their best to get me a seat, and treated
me with the greatest distinction. I had entertained a Czarewitch under
my umbrella unawares. The gentleman who had publicly asked me if I was
having good luck was the heir to the throne of all the Russias. I have
never since had a chance of chatting publicly with royalty, and have had
to fall back upon sending it telegraphic messages, or, rather, leaving
telegraphic messages addressed to it lying about unfinished on the desks
of Continental post-office bureaux.

But in writing about the sovereign I am wandering from the subject. I
went into the post-office one day and sat down at a table littered with
spoilt telegraph-forms. I picked up some of them and read them. They
were most of them little life-dramas in themselves. One ran: ‘Dear Aunt
and Cousins,--I have finished my life’s journey. This is the bourne from
which one traveller will never return. Farewell.’ Here was a hint at a
Monte Carlo tragedy. The next spoilt telegram I picked up was more
definite. The tragedy was complete: ‘Alphonse died at seven this
morning. Break gently to his mother.’ There was a little comic relief in
another one: ‘Send me fifty. Hôtel de Paris, return post. Am dead broke,
and living on my watch. I only brought a silver one.’ While I was
turning over these telegrams, the writers of which had evidently on
second thoughts couched their messages in other words, I heard a female
voice exclaim, with a pronounced London accent, ‘Does anybody here speak
English?’ I looked up, and beheld a young lady in a black hat and large
ostrich feathers, and a silver chain and locket. I at once proffered my
services. ‘I want to know if I can send £500 through the post to
London.’ I explained that one can send a million if one wishes in a
registered letter. ‘Oh, that’s all right, then,’ said the young lady.
‘I’ve won it, and got it changed into English notes, and I want to send
it to my mother. I’m not going to let ’em have it back again at the
table--not me.’ The young lady then went to the counter, and, with my
assistance, registered a letter containing £500 to Mrs. Hopkins,
somewhere in the Caledonian Road, and, honouring me with a smile of
thanks, went out gaily on a pair of those trodden-down high heels which
are peculiar to the feminine toilette of Great Britain.

Her place at the _guichet_ was immediately taken by an English clergyman
in a brown straw hat and alpaca umbrella. He didn’t speak a word of
French, and he wanted a post-office order for four-and-threepence,
payable in the Walworth Road. He asked about three hundred questions of
the clerk, who did his best to understand him, and finally tendered for
the order two French francs, two Italian lire, and wanted to make up the
rest in English penny postage-stamps. When the clerk objected, the
clergyman argued, and was especially indignant at the rejection of the
Italian coins, maintaining that he had received them in the Principality
of Monaco. Finally, after taking up nearly an hour of the clerk’s time,
and keeping twelve people waiting, he departed without the order, and
with the loudly-expressed intention of writing to the _Times_ on the
subject.

There were applicants of every nationality applying for letters at the
Poste Restante. Many a one that morning did I see turn away with a
white, dazed face when the clerk shook his head and said, ‘Il n’y a
rien, monsieur.’ The anxiously expected remittance had not come, and
Monte Carlo is a bad place to be in when you have exhausted your funds
and forgotten to make your retreat safe by taking a return ticket. Many
of those who received registered letters opened them eagerly, and with
feverish hands drew forth the bank-notes, thrust them into their
pockets, and went off almost at a run along the broad pathway that leads
to the gates of--well, ‘the rooms.’ A crowd of anxious faces does he
gaze on day after day, this clerk who sits behind the _guichet_ of the
Poste Restante at Monte Carlo; and some sad, wild messages must the
other clerk read who takes in the telegrams of the gamblers far from
home. It isn’t every day that a Miss Hopkins steps jauntily in to send a
‘monkey’ to her mother in the Caledonian Road.

One beautiful sunny afternoon I went over to Mentone. Sitting on the
parade in the sunshine, it was difficult to imagine that it was the end
of January. It was a day that an Englishman would have been proud of in
August. I asked the landlord of the hotel where I lunched if the growing
popularity of Monte Carlo had not injured Mentone. ‘Oh no, not at all,’
he replied. ‘On the contrary, we have a great number of English people
who come here because it is so close to Monte Carlo. They live here, and
go to the rooms every day. No one suspects you of gambling when you are
having your letters addressed to Mentone.’ There is no doubt that Monte
Carlo is not an address which everybody would care to give who leaves
London for the benefit of his or her health.

I missed the train back from Mentone to Monte Carlo, and, not caring to
hang about for two hours after the sun had gone down, I took a victoria
from the public stand and drove back over the mountains. It was a nice
drive in the twilight, but weird and lonely withal. Once in a gloomy
gorge, when we came suddenly on an encampment of fierce-looking gipsies,
I felt a little uncomfortable, and had visions of being carried off by
brigands to a cave; but when we began, after a steep ascent, to go down
a precipice at full gallop, I thought of nothing but my neck. The
driver cracked his whip, and the horse flew like the wind. We swayed
from side to side, and every moment I thought I should go over, and be
found mixed up with trunks of trees and bits of rock on the beach below;
but the horse was a surefooted little beast, and when I remonstrated
with the driver he only laughed, and said he had driven that road for
ten years and had never gone over the side of a precipice yet.

The last part of the journey was done by moonlight. I have no doubt it
was very beautiful and romantic, but I don’t care about it. There is a
bit of roadway near Roquebrune which would try the nerves of a Blondin,
and I never walk along it in broad daylight without turning giddy. When
we got to that I insisted upon getting out and walking, and I was glad
that I did. To avoid a piece of rock which had fallen, my charioteer
took the extreme outside edge, and, walking behind, I saw one hind-wheel
go actually off the ground and hang in the air. Had the horse stumbled
or stopped, I should have had no fare to pay that night. Luckily he made
a bound forward as he felt the carriage tilt, and the situation was
saved. That steep bank was _not_ the bank that broke the man at Monte
Carlo.

I made up my mind that I would never take another moonlight drive over
the mountains as long as I lived. For three nights afterwards I dreamt
that I was rolling down a precipice, and woke up in such a state of
abject terror that I had to get up and draw the curtains, and look out
at Monte Carlo bathed in moonlight, lying silent and peaceful as a City
of Dreams.

One morning, unable to go to sleep again, I sat at the window and saw
the sun rise. I never wished so much for the power of word-painting as
then. I would give a good deal to be able to describe that scene. As I
looked out upon it, it seemed to me a sin that such a glorious spot
should be the hell of Europe--the hotbed of all that is evil in human
nature. The flaunting Casino, with its gaudy roof of blue and red and
yellow, seemed like a painted harlot leering with a bold and brazen face
as the fair earth woke and smiled at the kiss of her bridegroom the sun.
But when I looked at it in this way, the last louis I had to lose had
been gathered in by the remorseless rake of the croupier. Probably ‘the
Successful Gambler’ would have seen that sunrise in a different light.

Everything is done to _force_ the visitor into the bad atmosphere of the
hot, unventilated gambling-rooms. No outside attractions are provided or
allowed. Everything that may give pleasure to the visitor who does not
wish to gamble is taboo. Even the railway is in the official clutches,
and the means of escape from the place are made as difficult as
possible. The Paris, Lyons, and Mediterranean Railway is, in the hands
of the Casino people, made to injure the surrounding towns. You can get
from Nice to Monte Carlo, for example, easily enough, but you find it
very difficult to get back again. The hotel-keepers of Nice complain
bitterly of what are called ‘Les trains Blanc,’ which are so arranged
that the Nice visitor who goes to Monte Carlo cannot get back to Nice
for dinner. There is an afternoon train, but it is ‘_facultatif_,’ which
means that it only runs when the administration chooses.

I met a young fellow the other day at the tables who at one time was
betting in thousands, and losing his £5,000 a night at baccarat, and was
the most notorious plunger in England. He told me he had been cleared
out at trente-et-quarante. ‘That’s what I’ve got to get through the week
with now,’ he exclaimed playfully, as he showed me two francs and a
bunch of keys. The next day he borrowed a louis and turned it into £50.
The day after that he was ‘broke’ again, and the story goes that he went
to bed without any dinner. I saw him yet again, and he had borrowed
another five francs, and played it up into a thousand francs in the
morning, only to be cleared out again before night.

It was this same young fellow who came to me and told me confidentially
that he believed everybody was stony-broke. ‘You wouldn’t believe it, my
boy,’ he said, ‘I’ve asked about forty fellows to change me a cheque for
£50, and there isn’t one of them that has enough to do it.’ I smiled.
Poor lad! If he had had more experience of the world he would have
understood why all his former friends and associates, and even the
wealthy men who had shared the bulk of his once vast fortune among them,
had become so suddenly short of cash. Cheques are not changed with
impunity at ‘Charley’s Mount.’

There has been a real suicide at Monte Carlo. There is nothing more
difficult than to arrive at the facts connected with Monte Carlo
scandals. Everything that is unpleasant, or that is likely to increase
the prejudice against the pastime of the Principality, is hushed up with
the skill which comes of long practice in the art of concealment.

The place at which the suicide was committed was a small house situated
in the Condamine at Monaco. In front of it an Italian labourer was at
work in the street. With this man I engaged in conversation, and asked
him if he had heard of a young couple committing suicide. The reply was,
‘I know nothing.’ Then I told him what I knew, and rattled some loose
silver in my pockets. ‘Ah, as the Signor knows so much it cannot matter
what I tell him,’ said the man, and then he pointed out to me the window
of the room in which the young couple had come to their end. ‘Ah, I saw
them often,’ he said, ‘this last few days, while I was at work on the
road here. They used to come out arm-in-arm. They were very loving, and
I said to myself, “It is a newly-married couple.”’

Having fixed the position of the room well in my eye, I entered the
hotel, and found it practically empty. The proprietress came out to
receive me. I explained that I was looking for rooms for some friends of
mine. Could I see which apartments were vacant? ‘Yes, certainly.’ I was
taken into most of the rooms, but none suited until I found myself in
the apartment of the romantic suicide. I said nothing to the lady, nor
she to me. The room was a small but comfortable one. Two wooden beds
stood side by side. These were the beds on which two days previously the
lovers had stretched themselves to die. The sun shone in at the open
window; the blue Mediterranean glinted below, and as far as the eye
could see all was peace and beauty and the joyousness of life. It was
from these windows that the young couple had taken their last look upon
earth. They had looked out upon the sunny land and the deep blue sea
with a fixed purpose of self-destruction in their hearts--with the
letter already written which was to tell their friends the story of
their last days. It was to this pleasant little room in which I stood
that they returned on their last night together, with their last hope
gone, with the knowledge in their hearts that when the sun rose again
over the palm groves and orange-trees and the white cliffs and smiling
seas they would have passed from this world to eternity. What a last
walk in the moonlight that must have been!--the man of twenty-nine, the
woman of nineteen--lovers, fugitives from their homes--she a married
woman, he a married man, and---- But let me tell it you, beginning,
middle, and end--this perfect French tragedy, this curious study of
morals and manners and Monte Carlo, this romance of the passions, this
little life-drama taken ‘palpitating’ from the pages of the modern
Boulevard novelist.

A young married man of Lyons fell in love with a young married woman.
They met secretly, adored each other, and agreed to fly together--to put
the seas between themselves and their families. But there was a slight
difficulty in the way. They had very little money for a long journey,
and they wanted to be far, far away--in America for choice. Then the
idea came to the man that they would take their small capital of a few
hundred francs and go to Monte Carlo, and make it into a fortune--a
fortune which would enable them to live in peace and plenty on a far-off
shore. So it came that one day, with a small box and a portmanteau, the
fugitives arrived at Monte Carlo, and put up in this little hotel, where
for eight francs a day you can have bed and board.

They had only a few hundred francs with them. In the letter which they
have left behind they explained that from the first their arrangements
were complete. They foresaw the possibilities of the situation. They
would play until they had won enough to go to America, or they would
lose all. And if they lost all they would die together, and give their
friends no further trouble about them.

They were a few days only in Monte Carlo. They risked their louis only a
few at a time, and they spent the remainder of the days and evenings in
strolling about the romantic glades and quiet pathways of the beautiful
gardens, whispering together of love, and looking into each other’s
eyes.

The end came quickly. One evening they went up in the soft moonlight to
the fairy land of Monte Carlo. They entered the Casino. They had come
to their last few golden coins. One by one the croupier’s remorseless
rake swept them away, and then the lovers went out of the hot, crowded
rooms, out from the glare of the chandeliers and the swinging lamps,
into the tender moonlight again. Down ‘The Staircase of Fortune’
arm-in-arm they went, along the glorious marble terraces that look upon
the sea, on to where at the foot of the great rock on which Monaco
stands there lies the Condamine. It was their last walk together. The
lovers were going home to die.

That night, in some way which I was unable to ascertain, the guilty and
ruined man and woman obtained some charcoal and got it into their
bedroom. They then closed the windows and doors, and prepared for death.
They wrote a letter--a letter which an official assured me was so
touching that, as he read it in the room where they lay dead, the tears
ran down his cheeks. Then the girl--she was but a girl--dressed herself
in snowy white, and placed in her breast a sweet bouquet of violets.
Then the charcoal was lighted, and the lovers laid themselves out for
death, side by side, and passed dreamily into sleep, from sleep to
death--and from death to judgment.

These are the facts of ‘The Romantic Suicide at Monte Carlo.’ It is not
a moral story; it is not a new story. I have told it simply as it
happened.

One morning I went over to breakfast with a friend of mine at
Roquebrune, a picturesque point near Monte Carlo. The proprietor showed
me over his villa and his grounds. While we were in the back garden a
Frenchman, who rented a villa in the neighbourhood, came in, in a
towering rage, to complain of my friend’s cat trespassing on his
grounds. After a heated discussion, the Frenchman exclaimed angrily,
‘Very well, sir, I shall lodge my complaint with the mayor. Where is the
mayor?’ My friend’s gardener, who was busy digging up new potatoes,
suddenly looked up, and, raising his battered hat, exclaimed with
dignity, ‘M’sieu, je suis le Maire de Roquebrune.’ Tableau and curtain.



CHAPTER XII.

GENOA.


From Monte Carlo to Genoa by rail in a hurricane doesn’t sound anything
very tremendous, unless you happen to know that the rail runs for almost
the entire distance at the extreme foot of the Maritime Alps, on the
uttermost verge of the coast; so close, in fact, to the sea, that in
many places if you dropped your hat out of the window it would fall into
the ocean. To walk along the line would turn many people unaccustomed to
exercise upon the tight-rope giddy, for, as well as running along the
beach, it occasionally takes the outside edge of precipices, against
which the deep waters of the Mediterranean are dashing themselves in
their mad fury at not being able to get at the train and swallow it up.

Under ordinary circumstances the journey, which takes ten hours by the
‘omnibus’ train, is romantic. Taken as we took it, with a hurricane
spending its full force on the coast, it was absolutely thrilling. Over
and over again our trim little engine, as it toiled up cliffs and crept
cautiously over massive rocks, was nearly blown to a full stop, and the
way in which the whole train rocked from side to side made several of
the passengers sea-sick. Our guard told us that he had never made such a
journey in all his experience; and, after we had left the Italian
frontier at Ventimiglia, and had passed San Remo, it began to look as
though we should have to let discretion be the better part of valour,
and pull up until the storm, which came rushing down the mountains and
lashing the sea to fury, had abated. Over and over again the seas dashed
up, and flung a great volume of water and small pebbles against the
carriage windows. It was a question whether further on the sea would not
have made the line unsafe, or perhaps washed it away altogether. But at
every station we got the signal that it was all right at present, and
that we could come on; and so on we went, recompensed for all our doubts
and delays by the grand sight which the storm-swept coast and seething
sea presented to our anxious and yet delighted gaze.

It was nearly eleven o’clock at night when we reached Genoa. We had
taken eleven hours to perform a journey of about 112 miles, and all that
time we had had nothing to eat. There was no buffet all along the line
after Ventimiglia until we reached Savona, and then it was past nine
o’clock. We grew so desperately hungry about six o’clock that when the
train stopped for a few minutes we rushed out into the rain and the
hurricane and requisitioned supplies of a small wine-shed by the
roadside. All we could get was some dry bread, and some mysterious
slices of something, which we were assured was ‘carne,’ or meat. The
word isn’t appetizing, and, hungry as we were, we couldn’t tackle the
food. It was so strongly impregnated with garlic that after we had given
it to a dog our carriage retained the odour, and for days afterwards our
clothes reeked of the pungent esculent. In despair we fell back upon the
dry bread, and when we had eaten that we tried to remember what people
did on rafts, and we unpacked our portmanteaus and looked out our boots,
and wondered whether patent leather or ordinary walking boots would be
the easier of digestion. So ravenous did we become that we sent on a
telegram from one of the stations to the hotel at Genoa ordering
beefsteaks to be ready for us the instant we arrived, and when at
midnight the omnibus deposited us at the Grand Hotel we didn’t stop to
wash or take off our overcoats or look at our rooms, but rushed into the
_salle-à-manger_ and fell on our knees to the head waiter and begged
that, ready or not, our beefsteaks ordered by telegram might be brought
to us; and when they came we fell upon them with savage glee and short,
sharp cries of joy, and the manager and the waiters and the porters came
crowding in to watch the extraordinary spectacle. I think they fancied
we were mad or cannibals, or that we had escaped from a penal settlement
and had not tasted food for months.

Genova la Superba, Genoa the Proud, has indeed something to be proud of.
She is proud of her port, of her people, of her palaces, and of her
prosperity. Her people, high and low, rich and poor, are brave,
independent, and public spirited, and her nobility stands at the head of
the nobility of the world for deeds of good citizenship and benevolence.
From the days of Christopher Columbus, who, when Genoa was stricken with
the plague, wrote to his bankers to give half his fortune to the poor,
to the present year of grace, when the Duchess Ferrari-Galliera spends
hundreds of thousands of pounds on colleges and hospitals and model
dwellings for the poor, the rich and the titled of Genoa have been
world-famous for their deeds of noble charity.

Genoa itself is a stately city; seen from the sea, with its villa and
palace-crowned amphitheatre of hills, it is superb. It has whole streets
of marble palaces, full of wonders for the eye of the connoisseur to
feast upon; and beyond its ancient grandeurs and its modern
magnificences, its heart pulses with the vigorous, healthy blood of
modern progress and prosperity.

Genoa delighted me from the moment I set my foot in it and began to take
its measure. I liked its busy port, with thousands of bronzed,
red-bonneted porters hard at work upon the huge quays, crowded with
merchandise. I liked its blue houses and its pink houses, its yellow and
green houses, and its houses painted all over with pictures of lovely
ladies. I liked the Municipal Palace, in which I was shown Paganini’s
very own fiddle, and several letters written by Christopher Columbus
with his very own hand, and I liked its Campo Santo, or cemetery, which
is one of the wonders of Italy.

Imagine a glorious garden rising in terraces--a garden all aglow with
red and white roses and fragrant with blossom--imagine this garden
surrounded with noble open galleries lined with magnificent white marble
monuments, and all shut in by great sunny green hills, which stand
around it like sentinels guarding the silent and sacred camp of the
dead. Imagine all this, then put above the roses and the blossoms and
the fragrant trees, and the yellow immortelles and the green wreaths and
the glorious marble statuary, a blue sky and a bright sun, and you have
a faint idea of ‘Genoa’s Holy Field.’

But you cannot imagine the monuments and the memorial statuary. You must
see them to understand them, because they are so utterly unlike anything
we have in our cold, prosaic land. In long marble galleries, open to the
air and the sun, the monuments at first give the cemetery the appearance
of an art exhibition. You fancy you have wandered into a sculpture
gallery by mistake; but the wreaths of flowers with broad silk sashes
attached, the swinging lamps, and the memorial tablets undeceive you.
Each monument has, as it were, an arch of the gallery to itself, and is
placed against the back wall. The figures are rarely allegorical. A man
in his habit as he lived stands life-size in white marble above his own
tomb. A little girl in a short frock, with her lap full of flowers,
seems dancing on the column that records her death. Over another
beautiful tomb is a family group, life-size. The father is dying. He
lies on his deathbed, and the sculptor has realized every detail of
drapery. The wife kneels by the bedside, some of her daughters
supporting her. The old mother sits in an easy-chair, her eyes raised to
heaven, her lips seeming almost to move in prayer. On the other side of
the bed the eldest son stands up and supports one of the daughters, who
has utterly broken down. It is a marvellous piece of work. It is the
‘Last Adieu’ realized in marble. It is naturalism and it is art. It is
realistic, and so perfect in detail that you would recognise any of that
group of mourners if you met them in the street.

One turns from the group, and near it is a dear old lady standing alone
above her own tomb. She is wrinkled, and wears a big cap and a woollen
shawl over her shoulders. No kindred are near her, but she is sincerely
mourned, for she was the friend of the poor. In her hand she holds the
bread she was in the habit of distributing to them. She is a dear
old-fashioned old soul--a typical English ‘granny’ of the Christmas
number--and her puckered, smiling face seems to make one at home in the
cemetery directly.

Some of the groups are more imaginative. A magnificent vault is faced
with a black-and-gold gate. On the steps leading to it a lad and his
sister kneel and gaze heavenward. They are watching their mother being
carried up into heaven by the angels. The whole scene is reproduced in
sculpture, and so exquisitely is it done that the dead woman and the
angels actually seem to be floating upward towards the skies.

Over another tomb, where a husband and wife lie buried together, this
old couple sit in two armchairs, holding each the other’s hand. On
another a man lies dead on his bed, and the young wife reverently raises
the sheet and gazes for the last time upon his face. Over another tomb
is the statue of the man who lies within. On the steps of the tomb
stands his wife, and she holds their little girl in her arms, and lifts
her up as though to kiss the dead papa. The door of another vault is
represented as half open. The husband lies dead inside. The wife knocks
at the door and listens for her dear one’s voice to call her in.

There are hundreds and hundreds of these beautiful groups in the Campo
Santo. What makes them the more extraordinary to the English traveller
is that the living and the dead are all habited in modern everyday
costume, and no detail is spared to make the groups and the single
figures triumphs of realism. One remarkable piece of sculpture I have
omitted to mention. It is over the tomb of a beautiful Italian lady who
died a short time ago. Her bed is represented with a perfection of
detail. The lace on the pillows is perfect. The lady is dead, but the
angel has come to fetch her. The angel takes the dead lady’s hand, and
the lady gets out of bed to go with the angel to heaven. This is the
moment depicted by the sculptor. The lady sits on the edge of the bed,
and the angel points upwards in the direction they are to travel
together.

All this is very beautiful, but its intense realism may jar on some. It
did on me after a time. I felt that something of the sublimity of death
was taken away in the process, and I turned with a little sigh of relief
to some of the humbler graves which dotted the sunny garden of fragrant
roses that lay so bright and beautiful under the blue Italian sky.

Walking in the streets of Genoa one afternoon I met a nice-looking,
stout, middle-aged lady in the most wonderful bonnet I ever saw in my
life. I was so attracted by the bonnet, which was of the Leviathan
order, that I did not notice anything else at first, but presently I saw
that she was bowing in answer to many salutes. Then I knew she was a
public celebrity, and I inquired who she was. ‘That,’ said my companion,
a Genoese, ‘is the daughter of Garibaldi!’

The daughter of Garibaldi is a great favourite in Genoa. She has married
a gentleman in the army, but people don’t trouble to remember his name.
He is always spoken of as the gentleman who is the husband of the
daughter of Garibaldi.

The daughter of Garibaldi is the proud and happy mother of twelve sons.
If they are as good as their grandfather, the lady deserves well of her
country.

On the same afternoon that I met the daughter of Garibaldi I also met an
old gray-haired gentleman and lady trotting quietly along the Via Roma.
My Genoese friend pointed them out to me, and told me their story.
Twenty years ago a rich Englishman and his wife came to Italy with a
foreign courier. In Genoa the gentleman was taken ill and died. He was
buried in the town, and his wife stayed on at the hotel. After a time
she married the courier, and from that day to this they have lived in
Genoa--going in the summer to a villa on the Lake of Como which they
purchased. Neither has ever set foot in England for twenty years.

I saw many things in Genoa which most people see, and which are
doubtless fully described in the guide-books; but I saw something also
of which the guide-books make no mention. I have mentioned the great
public spirit of the Genoese nobility. There is in Genoa a beautiful
building on the heights overlooking the sea, which is called the Hotel
of the Poor. This was founded and endowed by a Genoese marquis. Here
respectable workmen, when they are past work, can come and end their
days in perfect peace. Another nobleman, when it was proposed to move
the University to Padua for lack of room, instantly gave up his
magnificent palace to the town, saying, ‘This is henceforward your
University.’ But all deeds of this sort are put into the shade by the
princely charities of the Duke and Duchess of Ferrari-Galliera. The
Duke, shortly before his death, gave one million pounds sterling towards
the building of the new port. The Duchess, continuing his good work, has
founded noble charities which are almost unique of their kind. One of
them has such direct bearing on the great question of the day--the
housing of the poor--that I cannot resist the temptation to give the
reader a few particulars.

First let me say that the Ferrari-Galliera fortune is estimated at ten
million pounds, and then you will understand how the Opera Pia, or pious
works of this noble family, are carried out on such a gigantic scale. I
had been told a great deal in Genoa about the Duchess’s scheme for
housing the working classes in model lodging-houses, and so, obtaining
proper credentials, I called upon the Duchess’s agent, and he most
courteously had me personally conducted over the new working class
dwellings. Built in blocks, somewhat on the Peabody system, these
dwellings are perfect in every detail. The tenant must be a genuine
working man, of good character. In the Duchess’s model lodging-house,
for the accommodation of himself and family, he has five rooms--five
lofty, big rooms: a sitting-room, three bedrooms, and a kitchen, fitted
up with a capital range and every requisite. Besides these there are
cupboard room and a larder. These rooms have all tiled floors, and the
walls are painted or whitewashed. The rent is _eight francs a month_,
and this includes all necessary repairs, which are done by a staff of
workmen attached to the central office. Every month every room is
inspected, and the slightest damage instantly repaired.

My visit to the dwellings was quite unexpected. I drove straight from
the office to one of the blocks, and took the inhabitants unawares, so
that what I saw must be taken as a fair specimen of the general
condition of the tenements. I knocked at a door, was admitted, and made
my inspection, much to the astonishment of the children, who wondered
why the ‘strange man’ should come prying into their kitchen and walking
into their bedrooms. I inspected four blocks, and took a suite on each
floor, and everywhere I found the most perfect cleanliness and the
greatest comfort. The women were mostly the wives of working men earning
from twenty to twenty-five francs a week, but their homes were perfect
pictures of neatness and order. The floors were swept and garnished, and
the kitchens were little models of tidiness. One good soul was horrified
when I asked to see the bedroom. The bed wasn’t made, she explained, and
she was afraid I should think she was a careless housewife. As I went
over these homes of the Genoese working classes, I could not help
thinking of some that I knew at home. What would some hard-working
Englishmen and their wives give to get such ‘model lodgings’ as these,
and how gladly would they pay double and treble the rent that the lucky
Genoese pay for such accommodation!

As I came out of the block I had a look round the big courtyard in the
centre. At one end I found a large public washhouse; at the other end
baths fitted up for the inhabitants, and also on the premises I found
for their accommodation a bakehouse, in which the frugal wives who make
their own bread have it baked free of charge. And what could you wish
for more?

The Duchess has founded also, for the education of the poor children of
Genoa, a free college. To all who attend it breakfast is given, and also
a mid-day meal. Each boy is for one year ‘under observation.’ If his
conduct is good, he has a right to stay on and receive a liberal
education. If his conduct is bad, he is struck off the school list. A
poor boy who is industrious and shows any talent can even choose a
profession, and be specially educated free for that profession until the
age of seventeen. Young Genoa has certainly a chance to distinguish
itself in the future.

But the Duchess’s crowning work is the grandest of all her charities.
She has already built and endowed two hospitals--one for children and
one for incurables; the third, which was to be a general hospital, was
not yet opened, but by the courtesy of the Duchess’s agent I was
conducted over the whole building and everything was explained to me. As
the hospital is undoubtedly one of the finest and most complete in the
world, I must tell you something about it.

But first let me tell you the sad story which is bound up for ever with
it--a story which the Duchess herself has handed down to posterity by
having it inscribed upon a marble tablet in the grand entrance-hall.
This tablet states that the building of the hospital has been delayed
for four years, ‘owing to the treachery of my agent. General So-and-So.’
The Duchess names her treacherous agent, who was her own cousin, and so
brands him for all time to come. His treachery was this: He decamped
with £800,000, the money paid to his credit by the Duchess for the
building of the hospital. Poor old gentleman! He is eighty years of age
now, and he is said to have hidden himself from the world in a
monastery, there to expiate his fault. They say that the money did him
no good--that he is poor. That he took it to save from shame the son he
idolized--the son who was leading a life of extravagance, and who had
involved himself in such a way that the poor old General had to use the
Duchess’s money to save him. Whatever the truth may be, the General used
the money, and his treachery is ‘writ large’ upon the walls of the
magnificent hospital, the building of which his unhappy act delayed for
four long years.

The hospital itself stands in a magnificent position above the sea, and
is the perfection of every modern principle. It is so perfect and so
full of marvellous appliances and inventions that one feels, in walking
about it, that it is one of Jules Verne’s ideas. The glorious halls and
corridors, the massive marble pillars, the splendid marble staircases,
indicate wealth, but the perfection of the sanitary and scientific
arrangements tells of long years of anxious thought and study and
research. So perfectly is this marvellous hospital built that, in the
event of plague or cholera breaking out to such an extent as to infect
the building, the whole of the inside of the hospital can be removed and
another hospital will still be left standing as complete as the other.
To accomplish this the hospital is being built double, with a space
between the walls.

It would not interest the general reader for me to go into technical
details of the wonderful arrangements for the patients, and the
magnificent system of baths built on the premises, which includes every
kind and variety; but the general reader will understand the value of a
tramway system over the entire basement for the conveyance of stores,
linen, provision stores, officials, patients, etc.; and the advantage of
pure air conveyed straight from the adjacent mountains through
underground tubes, and distributed all over the building. This palatial
hospital looks on to the sea and on to the mountains, and, in order to
isolate it and give the inmates gardens and terraces and glorious views,
the Duchess has purchased a whole street of houses in the neighbourhood
and demolished them, that nothing shall detract from the perfect
sanitation of her glorious gift to the city of Genoa.

Genova la Superba! Genoa the Proud! Proud indeed, and with good reason,
with such a city, such citizens, and such nobles! In what other town in
Europe can you find, as here, a whole street of palaces given up by
their owners to the people?



CHAPTER XIII.

FLORENCE.


Some time before I left London, while indulging in the pernicious habit
of reading in bed, I was much amused and instructed by the narrative of
travel of a distinguished _confrère_ who had set out in search of
sunshine. The writer’s name is a household word in England, and in Italy
it is also a ‘household word’ in the most literal manner possible, for
you find a ‘Sala’ in nearly every house. I don’t remember whether the
‘Prince of Specials’ found all the sunshine he wanted, but if he did not
he had better come out to Florence at once with the biggest bag he can
get into the train.

I am writing at the present moment in a room looking on to the Lung’
Arno, and the sunshine is overpowering. In order to write with a slight
amount of cool-headedness I have to sit in a bath and to work with an
umbrella over me, which is damped at short intervals. For the past week
it has been the same--a fierce, blazing, beautiful sunshine, in which
you could cook a mutton-chop by holding it out of the window on the end
of your walking-stick for ten minutes.

Most of the Italian cities boast of special distinctions. Just as we say
‘Genoa la Superba,’ so Florence has been dubbed ‘Firenze la Gentile,’
‘Florence the Refined.’

Florence is beautiful to the tourist in search of art, but it is apt to
grow monotonous to staid and sober citizens who do not care to risk
rheumatics for life in order to see an altar-piece, or to take a certain
chill as the price of gazing at the real original Venus de Medici in the
icy passages known as the Uffizi. True, that the streets are full of
grand and solemn old palaces that carry the mind back through the
centuries; true, that every hole and corner is rich with art, but on the
Philistine all this palls after a time. I can understand how classical
and cultured minds can spend day after day lost in admiration before
virgins and martyrs who bear the closest resemblance to each other, and
I quite appreciate the rapture with which they gaze at statues which,
when all is said and done, are but men and women imitated and undraped.
I can worship with the best of them, say, six pictures and six statues
per diem, but galleries I cannot endure, and I fear I never shall. As
one jam-tart is pleasant to the tooth, and twenty produce nausea, so is
one good picture pleasant to the eye, and two hundred are apt to give
one headache.

Now, if you flee from galleries and churches, there is little left you
in Florence town but the side of the Arno. This is the one place where
all day long the sun shines out in splendour, and you can saunter and
dream, and ask yourself with the Misses Leamar, ‘Why is the world so gay
to-day?’ You turn away from the Arno at your peril. To enter any side
street is, to an Englishman, dangerous in the extreme. The long, narrow
streets shut out all sun and all light, and you pass into them from the
Lung’ Arno as from the kitchen fire to the ice well. I am tired of the
Lung’ Arno. I have worn the brim of my hat threadbare bowing to the
thousand Florentine princes, dukes, marquises, and counts, who smile at
me in the Cascine--the Hyde Park of Florence--and I am going to walk
right away from the palaces, the churches, and the galleries, right away
over the Arno to the high hills I can see shining in the sunlight far
away. Of Art I am tired; a little Nature will do me good. I tell the
people in my hotel I want a good ten-mile spin--where had I better go?
The Porter crosses himself, and the Director murmurs the name of his
patron saint. Ho! but here is a mad Englishman, who, having loose lire
in his pocket, wants to walk ten miles. They point me out a way,
however, begging me to provide myself with cognac, in case I fall by the
road, and I go. I am sure the Director is debating whether he shall have
a hot bath, a doctor, and some leeches ready for my return.

Once outside the hotel, the torture of my life in Florence begins. There
is a carriage-stand opposite the door, and the moment I show my nose
every man wildly whips his horse up, and drives full gallop at me. They
are all sure that I want a _carrozza_. I endeavour to evade them, but
they drive round and round me in a circle until I look like the
ring-master at Astley’s directing the performance of ‘the flying
charioteers.’ At last I make a wild dash between two vehicles and rush
up the street. But the enemy is not so easily defeated. The drivers dash
after me up the Lung’ Arno, and follow me over the bridge. The pride of
the Florentine flymen is stung to the quick. An Inglese has escaped
them. The watchword passes, and at every rank we come to the flymen
there lash their horses and join in the pursuit. Before I have gone a
quarter of a mile there are nearly one hundred flys pursuing me. Panting
and breathless, I still urge on my wild career. The honour of England is
at stake. In this unequal conflict I must conquer or die, for, as a
patriot, the reputation of my countrymen for obstinacy is dear to me.
Heedless of my course, I dash down narrow streets, through ancient
gateways, and round old squares, and at last I reach the city walls. The
Porta Romana is passed, and I am out in the suburbs. The flymen waver.
It is all uphill now, and their horses--poor beasts!--are blown and
leg-weary. One by one they turn round, and drive slowly back to the
city. For one day, at least, I am safe from the flymen of Florence.

I walk my miles on ever-rising ground till all the fertile valley lies
at my feet. I wind round and round till I reach the great height whereon
stands Galileo’s observatory and the villa in which, under the cruel
eyes of the Inquisition, he spent his last years. From this spot the
view is worth a pilgrimage that should have lasted a lifetime instead of
two hours. All the city of Florence, the distant Apennines (their crests
all crowned with snow), the blue waters of the Arno lie before me. I
breathe the pure, bracing air, I feel the warm sunshine on my face, and
the weight of my years is lifted from me. Give me a green hill, a blue
sky, and a square mile of God’s sunshine, and you may have all the
pictures and all the statues in all the whole wide world.

I seem to have a speciality for coming upon horrors. In Florence the
first night I go out, in a quiet, dark, back street, a gentleman walking
ahead of me suddenly reels and falls dead from an apoplectic stroke. I
should not allude to the circumstance but that it brought before me a
quaint and solemn phase of Italian religious life. The poor man was
carried into a confectioner’s shop and a messenger despatched to the
Misericordia--the establishment of the Brothers of the Misericordia, a
curious order, which renders the last offices to the dead. Presently
there arrived a man with a torch, and, following him, half a dozen of
the brothers, clothed from head to foot in a black garb and a hood and
mask. Nothing is visible of them but their eyes, their features being
completely concealed by the masks and hoods which cover the head and
face. Weird and solemn beyond description the brothers look in the
moonlight in this strange garb, and when presently they came out,
bearing the dead in an open bier, and formed in procession, headed by
the torch, and slowly moved away into the shadows of the dark, narrow,
winding streets, I shuddered, and fancied myself back in the Middle
Ages.

The history of the order is curious and interesting. It was formed
during the great plague, when people died faster than professional
undertakers could bury them. A body of gentlemen then undertook the
task, concealing their features while plying their solemn labour, in
order that they might not be recognised and shunned by the Italians, who
have a great horror of death and all that appertains to it. To this day
the order remains a secret one, and the outside world does not know who
the masked men are who tend the dying and the dead. The greatest and the
smallest belong to it, and the prince and the artisan rub shoulders in
it. It is often a refuge for wealthy men who have met with great
disappointments, and of talented men whose careers have been blighted,
and who want something to do to keep them from nursing their grief and
their wrongs.

While in Florence I saw most of the minor theatres. ‘Stenterello,’ the
Florentine Punch, has the big part in all the pieces at the people’s
theatre, and is a unique specimen of theatrical art. In order to
appreciate him thoroughly, I have sat out several evenings’ amusement
under rather distressing circumstances. When you pay sixpence to go into
a theatre, and sixpence more for a _posto distinto_ or reserved seat,
you must not grumble if your neighbours are not of the _haute noblesse_.
But the _manteaux noirs_ in which the Italian common people wrap
themselves during the winter are, when worn with Florentine thrift for,
say, thirty years, apt to get unpleasant, and the wearers have besides
unpleasant little ways, and are curiously afflicted, and---- But I will
not go into details. I have endured much by passing my evenings in the
popular parts of popular theatres--I mean the theatres patronized by the
masses--but I have gained an experience which ought to be valuable. I
shrink at nothing where my favourite study--the people--is concerned.

How shocking--isn’t it?--to waste one’s time studying the people of
to-day--living, breathing flesh and blood: tragedy, comedy, and farce
all packed together under a ridiculous modern costume--while there lies
all around one a whole population of stone and marble and painted ladies
and gentlemen, all classically draped or equally classically undraped,
and not one of them less than a thousand years old at least! I cannot
help preferring the living flesh to the dead marble, the country to the
canvas, and all that is wicked and philistine in me rises in rebellion
as I peruse the guide-books and catalogues and find nothing but
galleries and churches considered worthy of a tourist’s observation. I
am not blind to the beautiful in art, I hope. A modern picture gives me
often the greatest of pleasure, and so, for the matter of that, does an
old one if it has a story to tell, and tells it well; if out of the
painted eyes there looks forth a human soul, if in the grouped figures
there is some suggestion of human feeling. But the things which are as a
red rag to a bull to me are the Virgins and Children, the Holy Families,
the saints, the martyrs, the portraits of painters’ mistresses,
labelled now a heathen goddess and now a Catholic saint. For tourists to
spend as they do day after day contemplating these things, worrying away
at a note-book with a pencil, and then chevying off to spend more hours
staring at churches and cathedrals and listening to the droned-out lies
of the cicerone, while a people as interesting in their manners and
customs as any in the wide world live and move around them, under their
very eyes, despised, unstudied, and unnoticed, is to me
incomprehensible.

At all the theatres, save those where grand opera is given,
everything--tragedy, comedy, and farce--is ‘con Stenterello.’ Punch is
dressed always the same, no matter what the period of the play may be.
He is the low comedy man, and has all the funny lines, but at times he
utters noble sentiments, and becomes pathetic over the sorrows of the
heroine, who is habitually protected by him.

No matter how tragic or pathetic the situation, Stenterello, with his
queer costume and painted face, has a share in it. The bereaved wife
wails out to Punch her sorrow for the dear departed, the betrayed maiden
reveals to him the name of the villain at whose hands she claims
retribution. The Medicis of old cannot plot and plan without
Stenterello, the masher of to-day has Stenterello as his companion when
he goes a-wooing, and after a round of the Florentine playhouses I was
considerably astonished to find that ‘Othello’ was played at the Teatro
Tommaso Salvini without a Stenterello. I quite expected to see him turn
up as the devoted friend of Desdemona, or as the virtuous foiler of the
wicked schemes of Iago.

Stenterello is literally worshipped by the Florentines. In every play he
talks in the Florentine dialect--that is to say, in the _patois_ of the
people.

The late King Victor Emmanuel used to come in the good old days to the
little theatres, and roar as loudly as anyone at Punch’s wheezes, and
one evening expressed his delight at the performance by making a knight
there and then of the Stenterello who had given him so much amusement.
The history of these Punches would make a long magazine article. They
are classical in Italy. Stenterello is indigenous to Tuscany. Other
provinces have their Punch, who appears in nearly all the plays, but in
a different garb. In Naples it is Pulcinella who is the omnipresent
comic man. Pulcinella is dressed in a loose white costume, and wears a
black domino, with a beak to it--a property which deprives the actor
most effectually of the aid of facial expression. But Italian actors and
pantomimists do not need their faces to tell a story. They use their
hands most marvellously, and will tell a whole five-act drama with
gesture alone. In one little theatre the other evening I saw a _mime_
hold an audience spell-bound for fully ten minutes while she described a
tragedy, and showed how it was to be revenged, without uttering a single
word.

At the bulk of the Italian theatres you can enter by simply paying fifty
centimes or a franc for the _ingresso_. This entitles you to stand in
the large vacant space at the back of the stalls, which takes the place
of our pit. If you want a numbered seat or a box, of course you pay
extra for it. Once having paid your _ingresso_, you can go to all parts
of the house where there is room to stand and see. If you have friends
in a box, you walk in and sit with them, as each box is sold as a whole,
and is never split up into seats. The Italian theatre consists entirely
of stalls and private boxes and ‘standing room.’

At many of the theatres smoking is allowed all over the house during
the performance. Even the musicians smoke their cigars during the
_entr’acte_, and lay the half-finished ends on their music-stands when
the conductor waves his bâton.

To see the reckless manner in which matches are struck and flung about
would strike terror to the panic-monger’s heart were it not for the fact
that the houses, being built mostly of stone and marble, are not very
inflammable. The audience is always a wonderful study. The Italians
fling their hearts into the scene. The drama or farce is to them no
play, but a reality. They hoot the villain, they encourage the hero with
reassuring words, they cap Stenterello’s jokes with original ones of
their own, and they keep up a running fire of comment on the story as it
develops. They are as loud in their disapproval as they are in their
commendation. They will hoot a bad actor or singer off the stage
mercilessly, and if the moral of a play or its dénouement does not
interest them they will howl with rage till the curtain falls.

One remarkable feature of the popular playhouses is the prompter. This
gentleman sits in the centre of the stage, covered over with a green
wooden hood. I had a box one night on the stage, and I heard the
prompter deliberately read the whole play to the company a line in
advance of each actor, who repeated it like a schoolboy. The turn of
each actor to take up the text was indicated to him by the prompter’s
finger pointing at him. This continuous prompting is, of course, only
necessary in minor theatres, where the bill is changed almost nightly,
and the actors have little time for study.

I was seriously thinking of buying a title while I was in Florence.
Without a coronet one is so insignificant in Italy. I counted one
hundred and twenty houses in a straight line in Florence, and only
eight gates were without a coronet. Go over to the ‘Surrey side’ of the
Arno, and it is the same thing. Every ‘slum’ has a dozen palaces, and
every palace has a coronet. Prying about, after the manner of my
species, in out-of-the-way holes and corners, I became acquainted with
the fact that the nobility nearly all sell their own oil and wine. Near
the gateway of the palaces there is generally a little hole just large
enough to pass a bottle through. Over this is written, in small letters,
‘Cantina,’ and just by the side is hung a board with a tariff of the
price of ‘our wine.’

Dukes, marquises, and earls, they all retain the produce of their
vineyards and farms. You can buy a bottle of the ordinary for a franc,
and my lord’s servant will hand it you with a smile, and take your coin
with a condescending ‘Grazie.’ It is very quaint to see a workman come
along, stop at a palace about three times the size of Newgate, and
suddenly bob his head in--apparently through the stone wall--and
presently bob back again with a bottle in his hand.

I was determined to study this phase of noble life myself; so I knocked
at the hole in the wall of one of the most magnificent palaces of
Florence, and when the little slide was opened I bobbed in my head and
asked for a bottle of gingerbeer. ‘Gingebre?’ said the man inside. ‘I do
not think that is a wine of our vineyard.’ ‘Oh yes, it is,’ I said. ‘I
met an English Duke at the Palazzo Corsini yesterday, and he told me I
should get a bottle of gingerbeer here.’ ‘Ah!’ said the ancient
servitor, ‘then I will ask the Marquis, my master.’ He was absent for a
few minutes, and presently returned with the Marquis, an exquisitely
polite old gentleman of the good old school. ‘I fear, illustrious
stranger, you have made a mistake. I know not the name of “gingerbeer”
as a wine of the country. Certainly I grow it not myself.’ I apologized
profusely, and withdrew my head from the aperture just in time to allow
an old lady who was waiting, to bob hers in, and ask for two soldis’
worth of the Marquis’s best olive-oil, which she would take in the
coffee-cup she held in her hand. And she took it.



CHAPTER XIV.

ROME.


I came, I saw, and I--was conquered. For once I prefer the old to the
new, and Rome has exorcised the evil spirit that has taken up its
residence within me. I came into Rome from Florence on a day that would
have passed without attracting attention in Camden Town, Nunhead, or
even the Seven Dials. The rain was pouring in torrents, the streets were
rivers, and in the filthy byways, much affected by coachmen as
short-cuts, the stucco was peeling from tumble-down tenements, and all
was dirt and darkness and desolation. I have come into a good many
Continental cities, in the course of a long and virtuous life, depressed
and dyspeptic and disappointed, but I have never been made so utterly
miserable by anything as by my first introduction to Rome. I jumped at
once to the conclusion that travellers and guide-books had grossly
deceived me, and that the famous capital of the Roman Catholic faith and
United Italy had been made, like Somebody’s pills and ointment, by
persistent advertisement.

But with the morrow came the sun; the nightmare was over, and a pleasant
dream had begun. Pagan Rome had made me--yea, even me, my brother--a
little more respectful in my attitude towards antiquity. I came to
scoff, and I remained to pray. I have been in the Forum, and when I sat
on the great columns I tried to remember my Roman history, and muddled
up the Cæsars, and wished that I had paid more attention to my books at
school instead of making surreptitious catapults with the elastic I
pulled out of my new spring-side boots. I have roamed--should I say
Romed?--up the Appian Way, and lost myself in the mighty Baths of
Caracalla; I have been down into the Catacombs and seen the bones of
some Early Christians, and I have dreamed dreams, and wandered about in
fancy in a toga, and given off Latin orations to the winds, and have
only been aroused from my reverie by the voice of a fair creature
inquiring, with the choicest American accent, if it was in the Forum
that Julius Cæsar used to fight with wild beasts and play the fiddle
while Rome was burning.

But all the ancient glories, so far as I am concerned, sink into
insignificance beside the Colosseum. In this, the mighty ruin of the
greatest arena the world has ever seen, the most ordinary mind--mine,
for instance--loses itself. The present fades away; the guardian who
follows you to see that you do not put stone and marble pillars in your
pocket is lost sight of. You are back again in the year 72 A.D. You hear
the cruel whips of their masters cracking merrily over the 12,000 Jewish
captives who laid the first stones of the Colosseum, and in the year 80
it is complete, and Titus dedicates it, and the great arena is soaked
with the blood of 5,000 wild beasts. The years go on, and human blood
alone can satisfy the cruel thirst of the Romans. Over the seats and
benches, now mouldering ruins, you see a mighty populace swarming. In
the vast arena, where your modern foot, clad in a buttoned kid boot, now
stands, thousands of gladiators, their huge muscles standing out like
iron bars, fight, and dye the ground with their gore. The fiercest
beasts stand at bay, with trembling captured slaves, and the nobles and
the people--ay, even the women--shriek with delight as quivering flesh
is torn, and the life-blood of man and brute spirts out in crimson jets.
You can see it all, if you have a spark of imagination--the whole
bloody, revolting scene becomes so real that at last you turn away and
hide your eyes, and cry ‘Faugh!'--come to your senses, and thank Heaven
that such cruel days are over for ever.

And outside, even as you are expressing your gratitude, you will see a
long line of weary, wretched animals dragging their heavy loads, while
behind them walks a Roman of to-day lashing their quivering, bleeding
sides with brutal fury, even goading their poor starved carcases to
further effort by thrusting a sharp stick into their open wounds. I can
imagine what the Roman horses and mules and oxen would say if they heard
anyone rejoicing that cruelty died out with the Pagans and the decay of
the Colosseum. I have seen such cruelty to animals under the shadow of
St. Peter’s that I doubt if the Colosseum ever saw worse. Beasts had at
least a speedy death there. It is reserved for the modern citizen of
Christian Rome to make a dumb brute’s torture last its whole life long.

A Roman is very proud of being a Roman, and he does nothing menial. The
fly-drivers are Romans, but they do not groom or attend to their horses.
They have Neapolitans to do that. There is a good deal of the old
dignity still surviving among the people. At a Roman pastrycook’s a
Roman waiter brings me an ice with the air of an emperor. An emperor
would have done it more quickly, though, as his time would doubtless
have been valuable. A Roman is always wrapping himself in an imaginary
toga, and that dress is a much better one to pose in than to bustle
about in and perform the vulgar task known as earning one’s daily bread.

Anyone who travels must be struck with the extraordinary way in which
the same waiters turn up all over the world. The man who spreads my
humble repast of polenta and dried figs in the Hôtel Londra, in Rome,
last waited upon me at the hotel at Seaford, in Sussex, a pleasant
hamlet, which generally consists of six inhabitants, two visitors, and a
pedestrian passing through from Newhaven. In Milan my waiter reminded me
that he had often had the honour of waiting upon me at the St. Enoch’s
Hotel, at Glasgow, and in a restaurant in Florence I was recognised with
a broad grin by the former oberkellner of a pleasant hostelry upon the
Rhine, where I sojourned in ’78. Most travellers can multiply instances
of this sort of thing, but it is just a little wonderful to meet in Rome
your old garçon of sleepy little Seaford, in Sussex.

More wonderful still! I have just been into a coiffeur’s in the Via
Condotti to be shaved, and the young gentleman officiating, after
lathering me, said in the most unconcerned way possible: ‘Let me see, I
thinks that you like him a razor fine, if right I remembers?’ I stared
at the man in astonishment, and stammered: ‘Do you know me, then?’ ‘Ah,
sare,’ was the reply, ‘I shave you often last year, at the Toilet Club,
Brighton. No you remember?’ The world is decidedly small. I am looking
about Rome now with some hope of coming upon the cabman to whom I gave a
sovereign instead of a shilling in the Old Kent Road in the summer of
’81. I really don’t see why he shouldn’t come round the corner
accidentally.

Rome has just recovered from the incursion of the pilgrims to the tomb
of Victor Emmanuel, and Society is returning to the capital. The
‘pilgrimage’ business scared many people from the city, for there was a
good deal of wild talk about riots and I know not what. You see, this
pilgrimage has been an organized Government affair, got up entirely for
political purposes. The vast horde of folks who flocked from all parts
of Italy came, not to show their attachment and devotion to monarchical
institutions, but to see Rome and enjoy themselves. The railway
companies brought ‘pilgrims’ at a reduction of 75 per cent. on the
regular fares.

Although nothing has appeared in the papers, it is common talk in Rome
that one train-load was stoned by the mob, and in several places this
‘loyal’ demonstration was hissed and hooted. Italy teems with dissension
and discontent, and how fully the Government is aware of the fact is
best proved by the enormous pains that have been taken to organize and
carry out this solemn farce of a national pilgrimage to the tomb of the
late King.

It is fair to say that this view of the pilgrimage is taken only in
clerical and Republican circles. I am assured by many Italians that it
has really been a great success, from a political point of view. There
is no doubt that the ‘merry jests of King Victor Emmanuel’ endeared him
to a large number of his subjects, and the stories that are being told
of him now would fill a book.

The stories of his hobnobbing with peasants and boors, and finding his
pleasure in bourgeois life, have caused the old canard to be revived
about his identity. My waiter in Rome imparted it to me confidentially
one morning while I was struggling to eat some _gnocchis à la Romaine_
without injuring all that is left of my liver for life. I will give it
as I received it:

‘Wunst was a fire--big fire, while Vittor Emanuele he was baby in de
palace. Real royal baby he was burn to death. To prevent being found
out what happen, de nurse she put her baby in de place of other, and
nobody not find out, so Victor Emanuele he really was one of de people,
and dat was what make him so fond of sit in beerhouse and eat sausage
and bread with a big knife.’

There is a big movement afoot in Rome to revive the Barberi races in the
Corso. The Corso, as all my readers are aware, is a long, narrow street
in the fashionable quarter of Rome, and the Barberi are poor horses who
are let loose at the top with spiked balls fastened to their sides,
which goad them almost to madness, and make them fly like the wind. Last
year the cruel sport was abandoned, owing to its having caused a
terrible accident just under the Queen’s balcony the previous year. This
time, however, there is a great outcry for a revival, and the chief
sinners are not the cruel Romans, but the humane English and American
visitors and residents.

As in these days of extended travel everyone goes to Rome, I should like
to say a word about the nonsense that is talked about the unhealthiness
of the climate and the danger of malaria. ‘Roman fever’ is a bogey which
frightens hundreds of good folk from enjoying one of the greatest treats
the world can give. There is very little danger to people who live
carefully and don’t rush. If people will go to Rome in the blazing heat
of summer, and gallop about from place to place like madmen, now
sweltering in the sun, and now burrowing into the icy depths of a ruined
temple, or wandering in the cold galleries of a church, chills will
follow, and fever may ensue; but in nine cases out of ten fear is the
great cause of the illness of English travellers.

The Roman water, again, which some folks warn you not to drink, is the
purest water in the whole wide world, and there is a supply, brought
through the restoration of some of the classical aqueducts a distance
of thirty-six miles, which is equal to 300 gallons per day for each
inhabitant, and this is flowing day and night uninterruptedly. London
Water Companies please note.

There is one thing which makes Rome unendurable to nervous, excitable
people, and which, combined with the sirocco, has driven me away. To be
harassed and tortured at every turn is death to a rheumatic, dyspeptic,
quiet-seeking man whose nerves are champion jumpers. To show what I
mean, I will exactly reproduce my last walk in Rome. I have read Mr.
Hare’s ‘Walks in Rome,’ but mine is the walk of a Hunted Hare.


A WALK IN ROME.

     (_Enter a Rheumatic and Dyspeptic_ ENGLISHMAN _from a Hotel on the
     Piazza di Spagna. Fifty single and double horse flys instantly rush
     at him._)

ENGLISHMAN (_leaping wildly in the air_). No, no; I’m going for a walk!

     (_Flys retire slowly, dropping off one by one as_ ENGLISHMAN
     _continues to dodge under the horses’ heads, to weep and wail, and
     beg to be allowed to go for a walk_.)

     (_Enter a Man with Laces, a Man with Coral, and a Man with Views of
     Rome._)

MEN (_surrounding Englishman_). Volete! Volete!

ENGLISHMAN. No, no; I don’t want anything. Let me pass. I’m going for a
quiet walk to calm my nerves.

     (_After a quarter of an hour’s race distances the three men, and
     stops and mops his brow._)

ENGLISHMAN. At last! Now for a quiet stroll and a little calm
meditation.

     (_Enter an omnibus_ R. _and a waggon_ L.--_there are no raised
     pavements in Roman side streets--both coming full speed_.)

DRIVERS (_shouting_). He! Ho!

ENGLISHMAN. Oh dear! I shall be crushed. Where can I go? Oh dear!

     (_Climbs up a waterspout on to the sill of a first-floor window,
     and escapes with the loss of his boots, which the waggon draws
     off._)

ENGLISHMAN (_coming down_). Dear me! the stone is very cold to one’s
feet without one’s boots. Never mind; now for a nice saunter.

     (_Enter Flower-sellers--Mother, Father, and Four Children. They
     surround_ ENGLISHMAN _and offer flowers_.)

ENGLISHMAN. No. Oh, do go away, please! I have left my purse at home.

     (_Family stick flowers in_ ENGLISHMAN’S _buttonhole. He flings them
     back. They throw them on his hat. He shakes them off. They put
     pansies in his pockets and roses down the back of his neck--fact!
     He shakes himself free and flies._)

ENGLISHMAN. Phew! The sirocco is blowing, and I’m all in a perspiration.
Let me enter this cool church a moment and rest in a pew.

     (_Chorus of beggars at church door, holding out withered hands,
     half noses, wrapped up in paper, mangled legs, etc._: ‘Io muojo di
     fame! Date mi une soldo!')

ENGLISHMAN. Die of hunger, and be hanged to you!

     (_Pushes through them and enters the church._)

CUSTODIAN (_in church_). You vould like for to see pitchers an’
statchers, eh, sare? Come vid me.

ENGLISHMAN. No; I’m going to rest a minute. Go away.

     (_Enter Two_ CICERONI.)

FIRST CICERONE (_in French_). Take you over the church, sir? Show you
some funny things.

SECOND CICERONE (_in Italian_). Come with me, sir; I understand the
antiquities.

ENGLISHMAN. No, no, no!

     (_Kneels and prays to Heaven to be left alone one moment._ CICERONI
     _pursue him. He exits shrieking, rushes back to his hotel in a high
     fever, barricades himself in his room, and, drawing a revolver,
     threatens to shoot the first person who disturbs him._)

     (_Enter Two Sisters of Mercy to beg for the poor._)

ENGLISHMAN. What! cannot I even have a minute to myself in my own room?
(_Shoots himself._) Now I’m dead perhaps I shall have five minutes!

     (_Enter a Dozen Men masked, who seize_ ENGLISHMAN.)

ENGLISHMAN. Here! leave me alone; I’m dead.

MASKED MEN. All right, but you must be removed at once. You’ve got to be
underground by to-morrow in Rome, you know.

ENGLISHMAN. Oh, hang this! I’m off, then!

     (_Rushes to railway-station, has a fight with fifty porters, who
     struggle to carry his umbrella and his overcoat for him, leaps into
     a train, and departs for England._)

DOCTOR IN ENGLAND (_feeling Englishman’s pulse_). Why, you’re in a
raging fever, and your nerves are overwrought, and you’re quite
delirious!

ENGLISHMAN. Yes, doctor. I unfortunately went out for a Quiet Walk in
Rome!

One thing that has surprised me more than any other in a land of so much
art as Italy is the striking mock modesty which has ruthlessly
disfigured the statuary in the galleries and churches. The suggestion of
putting the legs of a table into drawers is only paralleled by what one
sees in the Uffizzi and Pitti galleries of Florence, and in St. Peter’s
at Rome. In the latter, a marble figure is actually adorned with a
ridiculous zinc petticoat. The force of the ridiculous can only go a
step farther, and put Achilles into trousers, and the Gladiator into a
Highland kilt. A hundred years hence the Venus de Medici may have to be
studied through a _robe de chambre_, and Hercules in an ulster and
chimneypot hat may be the last contribution to the adaptation of ancient
art to modern views.

What we shall do with the pictures I don’t know. Many of them are quite
as undraped as the statues, and several are absolutely indecent if we
are to take the figures as modern ladies and gentlemen, living under the
police regulations of the nineteenth century. One might just as well
paint petticoats on to the females of Rubens as give zinc
bathing-drawers to the _chefs d'œuvre_ of Michael Angelo and Canova.

There is one picture which was very objectionable to an elderly English
lady in the Uffizzi. It is a charmingly-executed figure of Venus
performing a kindly office for Cupid with a smalltooth-comb. I suppose
by-and-by the comb will be painted out, and Venus will be supplied with
a piece of flannel and some soft soap.

I am sorry to say that I have had to leave Rome without the honour of an
audience of the Pope. I have seen the King and the Queen and the Prince
of Naples, for they all three drive about daily without the slightest
escort, and we--that is, I and the Romans--just bow and smile and murmur
‘How d’ye do?’ and pass on. We mix so freely with the Royal Family--I
and the Romans--that we get quite friendly, and find ourselves saying
‘Fine day, isn’t it?’ to the King as we pass him in the Corso; and the
King, taken off his guard, says, ‘Very; but I don’t think it will last.’
But with the Pope it is different. He is the prisoner of the Vatican,
and comes no more forth. Privileged persons, however, now and again he
receives, and I had every reason to expect an invitation to attend at
the Vatican, when I was compelled to leave Rome and go further north. I
had, however, every opportunity afforded me of seeing all that the
Vatican contains, and cannot let this opportunity pass of expressing my
gratitude to his Holiness’s Private Chamberlain, the Cavaliere Cassell,
who procured me every privilege.

I know how interested ladies are in all that concerns housekeeping, for
many are the charming letters which reach me on the troubles and
torments of the modern domestic interior. For their private perusal,
therefore, let me make a note of a custom which prevails largely in
Italy, and which, I think, would do away with a great trouble and
annoyance from which all unfortunate individuals who do not live in
hotels or dine at clubs continuously suffer. In some parts of Italy,
when you engage your cook or _chef_, you simply say to him: ‘There are
ten of us in family. For breakfast we like so and so; for dinner so and
so. How much?’ Thereupon the cook thinks it over, and he reckons it up,
and presently he says: ‘Sir’ (or madam), ‘I will keep your family for so
many francs a month.’

The bargain is struck, and you have no further housekeeping worries at
all. The _chef_ buys everything; he has contracted to cook for you, and
to supply all you require.

If his dinners are not good enough, or if you think his contract is too
high for what he is giving you, you send for him, and you say: ‘I cannot
afford to pay so much; you must keep my family for less.’ If you are
overpaying, the cook will accept a reduction. If you are not, he will
say: ‘Very well, madam, then I must leave, as any reduction would leave
me no margin of profit.’ Then you know that your _nourriture_ is being
supplied at a reasonable rate, and you allow the contract to stand or
not as you think fit.

Now, just think what a lot of trouble this will do away with. No more
bother with butchers and bakers and grocers, no more journeyings to and
fro to co-operative stores. The good housewife has nothing to do but
play with her children and read the latest of Mr. Mudie’s three-volume
frivolities. All the cares of housekeeping are gone. I intend to try the
plan directly I return. Only, as I am not rich enough to afford a
_chef_, and shall have to rely upon a female, I shall watch her very
closely when she goes out on Sunday. If, after she has contracted for me
for three months, I find her going out with six ostrich feathers in her
hat and a diamond ring outside her gloves, and hailing a hansom at the
corner to drive her to the Café Royal where she is going to entertain a
few Lifeguardsmen and some lady friends at dinner, I shall begin to
think that the contract will bear reconsideration and a little
reduction.

‘Comfort’ does not enter very largely into consideration, except at the
great national theatres to which foreigners as well as natives flock. In
Rome it is usual to give two representations, one at half-past five, and
the second at half-past nine. I went one evening to the ‘Metastasio.’ At
a quarter to ten I had the house to myself. I groped my way up a dark
passage, and found a woman asleep on a bench. I showed her my ticket,
and she shouted, ‘Hercules! Hercules!’ Presently a little lame dwarf
answered to the name if not to the description, and unlocked the box. It
was a dingy hole, with a bare brick floor, and contained two
rush-bottomed chairs. ‘Hercules’ handed me a cushion to put on the
chair, and for this I paid ‘by the tariff’ half a franc. Presently the
house filled. In the box next me a Roman lady administered its natural
sustenance to her baby. All around the men smoked the local cigar. The
performance was fairly good. The costumes in one act were suggestively
indecent, and the scenery ridiculously wretched. The stage footman
walked about all through the acting, and cleared the stage frequently
for the next scene while the hero and heroine were in possession of the
boards. There was a real rain scene, which so delighted the audience
that they had it all over again, and, as usual, the prompter steadily
read the play aloud from end to end.



CHAPTER XV.

NAPLES.


Naples! What marvellous scenes that one word conjures up! Everybody
knows Naples. Those who have not seen it have read about it, and its
thousand marvels are familiar as household words. Vesuvius is known to
every street arab who sells matches in the street. The story of Pompeii
is as the story of Noah’s Ark. And Naples itself! Are not Neapolitan
ices sold from barrows at a halfpenny each wherever the English language
is spoken--from Hampstead Heath to Donnybrook Fair? The Neapolitan
fisherman, in his red cap, who sings choruses from ‘Masaniello'; the
little Neapolitan girl who sings ‘Santa Lucia'; the lazzaroni, the Bay,
the Chiaja, the house of Emma Lady Hamilton, the grottoes, the blood of
St. Gennarius, the storytellers on the Port, the puppets, the poor
horses with open wounds--all these things are now as A B C to
Englishmen; and there is not a boy or girl in the fourth standard who
couldn’t tell you that ‘_Vedi Napoli e poi mori_’ means ‘See Naples and
then die.’

Shall I confess that, having been taught from my earliest infancy to
believe in the Naples of romance, the Naples of the operatic stage, the
Naples of the guide-book, and the Naples of the tourist, I was just a
little disappointed when I first found myself in the famous city? My
first disappointment was the complete absence of choruses of
red-bonneted fishermen, singing, ‘Behold, how brightly breaks the
morning.’ My second disappointment was the utter absence of colour and
costume on the quay and in the city; and my greatest disappointment of
all was that the bay was not blue, the sun was not warm, and the people
were not gay. I arrived in Naples on a day which must have left London
last November, and have remained hidden somewhere off the coast until it
heard of my arrival. It was a dark, dull, lowering day--a day such as my
good friend the oldest inhabitant could not remember the like of.
Vesuvius in the background was shooting up a black volume of smoke that
made him look like Sheffield in the distance more than the time-honoured
mountain of the London matchbox, and the sky was as dirty and grimy as
the lava pavement of the city. It wasn’t the fault of Naples that it so
belied its character. It was my fault. I had brought my own weather with
me, and spoiled Naples as I had spoiled the Riviera.

But in the morning all was changed. The sky was a cloudless blue, and
the sun shone brilliantly, and I sallied forth to lounge away the day,
and to steep myself in Neapolitan life. Much of my first disappointment
was atoned for, but still I searched in vain for picturesque costume.
Naples is no longer the Naples of old. The curse of the billycock hat,
which has spread over Europe, has not spared Southern Italy. The common
people wear the castoff clothes of the well-to-do, and the well-to-do
dress in the London fashion. As a natural consequence, the Neapolitan
porters and fishermen and lazzaroni have little to distinguish them from
the London labourer and the London costermonger. Naples has also in a
great measure been ruined by the rich foreigner, who insists on
carrying his own manners and customs with him. The old habits of the
people yield to foreign influence, and one great city becomes as another
great city. The English and the French and the Germans come to spend
their money at Naples. They must be pleased. To please them everything
that is English and French and German is introduced, and one by one the
Neapolitan characteristics disappear.

Still, the industrious searcher who leaves the beaten track of the
visitor and plunges into the side streets and the poorer quarters can
find plenty of reward for his pains. He who would see Neapolitan life
and study the people, their amusements and their customs, must shun the
great hotels, and turn a deaf ear to the words of porters and hotel
guides. As a rule the hotel people know nothing of the town. As an
instance, take the hotel at which I stayed. The proprietor was a Swiss;
the hall-porter was a German newly arrived from the Midland Hotel, St.
Pancras; the head waiter was, during last season, sitting-room waiter at
the Old Ship at Brighton. My sitting-room waiter came from the Queen’s
Hotel, Hastings, and my chambermaid’s last place was the Schweizerhof at
Lucerne. You can imagine for yourself what these people are likely to
know of Naples. I had not been two days in Naples before I was able to
tell the hall-porter of a dozen places which would be most interesting
to English visitors, but of which he had never heard. Yet every day I
heard English tourists inquiring of this man what they ought to see, and
he gave them the stereotyped answer. He sent them to Pompeii, Vesuvius,
and one or two well-known places, and for their evening’s amusement
invariably recommended them to try the opera at San Carlo. San Carlo is
the largest theatre in Europe, and the opera is magnificently given
there; but there are a score of things to see in Naples of an evening
which are far more amusing and instructive and novel than a night at the
opera.

One such place I found for myself, and I will tell you what I saw there
presently, but first I must get over my ascent of Vesuvius. It is an
awful journey from Naples to the edge of the crater, but the adventurous
voyager is well repaid for all his trouble, especially if he is as
fortunate as I was on the day of my visit. Vesuvius is a great fact in
the history of Naples; but for Vesuvius there would be no Herculaneum
and no Pompeii, and Vesuvius has had a tremendous influence on the
Neapolitan character. People who live at the foot of a volcano, within
sight of buried cities and islands and mountains which disappear in a
single night and reappear again, sometimes after thirty years of
submergence, are naturally superstitious, and equally naturally strongly
pervaded with the sentiments of religion.

Nowhere are the people so devout as in these parts. Shrines are
everywhere, and no house is without its cross. The priests flourish in
the midst of the people, and are beloved and revered by them. New ideas
come slowly to minds filled with simple and childlike faith, and free
thought makes but slow progress among a populace who are ever in the
presence of Nature’s most sudden and most awful catastrophes. Grant that
the Neapolitan is bigoted, superstitious, incapable of great mental or
physical effort. Who can wonder at it? Climate, race, and surrounding
circumstances account for it all! Live in Naples and be energetic under
that clear blue sky, in that hot sun, in that dreamy atmosphere, if you
can. Live under the shadow of that ever-seething volcano, knowing not at
what moment it may pour forth its fiery deluge and bury the villages for
miles around under a molten mass, and scoff if you dare!

All my life long I had wanted to see Vesuvius. My youthful imagination
was fired by the picture on the fusee boxes. It was not until the month
of January, 1888, that I found myself at last within measurable distance
of the grand old volcano.

I was in Naples for some days before I made the excursion. Every morning
I used to gaze at the great mountain celebrity, and from the respectful
distance of my bedroom window at the Grand Hotel watch him ‘smoking his
morning pipe'; but Vesuvius, as seen from Naples, is a very different
affair from Vesuvius as seen from the mouth of its crater. I was a long
time making up my mind to ‘do’ Vesuvius, because Naples is a place where
one does not go to bed particularly early. Every evening found me at one
of the theatres, generally the magnificent San Carlo, and as the opera
in Naples is frequently not over until past midnight, and there is life
to be seen at the Café de l’Europe, in the Via Nazionale, ‘after the
opera is over,’ it was often two o’clock in the morning ere I walked
back along the lonely Chiaja to the Grand Hotel. Now, to see Vesuvius
properly, and get back to Naples before nightfall, it is necessary that
you should make a start at eight o’clock in the morning. Naples is the
last place in the world in which a man wants to get up early in the
morning--Naples is the home of the _dolce far niente_. Mendelssohn
declared that in Naples he felt the greatest disinclination to do
anything at all. ‘I lounged about the streets all day,’ he says, ‘with a
morose face, and would have preferred lying on the ground without the
trouble of thinking, or writing, or doing anything. The atmosphere of
Naples is suitable to grandees who rise late, never require to go out on
foot, never think (for this is heating), sleep away a couple of hours on
a sofa in the afternoon, then eat ice and drive to the theatre at
night, where again they do not find anything to think about, but simply
make and receive visits.’ This peculiarity of ‘Neapolitans at the play’
I may refer to on another occasion, when I write my long-contemplated
article on the theatres of Europe; for the present I only wish to draw
attention to the intense laziness which the climate engenders. You will
now understand why I remained in Naples a whole week before I summoned
up sufficient courage to get up at eight o’clock in the morning to go to
Vesuvius.

However, I managed it at last. This is how I got up at eight o’clock in
the morning: I returned from the theatre at one in the morning, sat up
in my room with my companion, the now famous Albert Edward, native of
Finland and citizen of the world, smoking and talking till three. Then
we settled ourselves down in easy-chairs and went to sleep without
undressing. At seven we were aroused by the waiter, who, according to
overnight instructions, entered with considerable noise and some hot
coffee, and after giving us half an hour’s grace took us by the
shoulders and forced us downstairs.

Even when we stood outside the hotel, and found it cold, we said we
would go back and go to bed; but the landlord, who had promised us
faithfully to prevent any weakness on our part at the last moment, was a
man of his word, and, assisted by the waiter and the porter, thrust us
into the carriage, banged the door, and bade the coachman drive off with
us at once to Vesuvius.

Finding that further subterfuge was impossible, we turned up our
coat-collars, wrapped ourselves in our rugs, and presently we fell fast
asleep, the rhythmic snoring of my companion alone breaking the silence
of the lonely roads along which, at a cruel crawl, our wretched animals
proceeded.

Oh, the poor horses of Naples! They have haunted me ever since I saw
them. There is not, I should think, any place in the civilized world
where dumb beasts are treated with such wanton brutality as in this
glorious Naples. Some of the horses are mere skeletons--bags of
bones--and their starved bodies all one mass of gaping wounds and
hideous sores. The Neapolitan flyman always keeps a wound or a sore
place open on his horse’s body. It is into this wound that he thrusts a
sharp-pointed stick when he wants to urge the poor beast to further
effort or increased speed. I have seen a poor little pony, one mass of
sores and dead lame, dragging a _calesso_ containing fourteen people,
and being goaded into a gallop the whole length of a journey of ten
miles.

I have referred to the subject of the Naples horses elsewhere, but it
cannot be referred to too often. I am, in common with many other writers
who have seen the awful cruelty of Naples, hopeful that some day public
opinion will grow so strong on the subject that even the Neapolitans
will be shamed into something like ordinary humanity to their dumb
slaves.

Let me briefly, while our own wretched animals drag us wearily along the
road to Vesuvius (it takes four hours to get to the base of the cone
from Naples), tell you something of the Naples beasts of burthen.

The _calesso_ which I mentioned above is a long, narrow cart with three
benches or seats in it, and two poles sticking out behind, on which a
board is placed which seats more people. These _calessi_ belong mostly
to the villagers and the costermongers. The sides are painted sometimes
with pictures of the Virgin, sometimes with ballet ladies, and sometimes
with apocryphal figures. But however much they differ on the outside
they are always the same inside--that is, they are always full. The
proprietor of a _calesso_ drives half the village to town and back
again for nothing if they are his friends; for a small fee if they are
not. All the morning you see these loaded _calessi_ coming into Naples,
and all the afternoon you meet them going out again. Sometimes, instead
of the usual lame, raw, starved pony, a donkey draws the terrible load;
occasionally a horse in the last stage of break up and break down is
harnessed to the shafts. The heavier waggons are drawn by teams.
Sometimes four horses, sometimes a horse and a donkey, are harnessed
together. Sometimes a horse, a donkey, and a cow limp along side by
side. Upon one occasion near Pozzuoli I met a horse, a cow, a mule, and
a donkey drawing a load, but the most frequent ‘pair’ is a horse and a
cow.

Up in a secluded corner near the tomb of Virgil, just at the entrance to
the old grotto of Posilipo, I came one day on a dirty, broken-down
looking stable. On the door I saw written up ‘Society for the Protection
of Animals.’ After seeing the animals, I was not surprised that the
society took such a back seat. After all, what can it do in a country
where everybody tells you it is wicked to think of animals--animals have
no souls! Well, it may be so. I am far from sure about it, but animals
have hearts, and in this respect they have the advantage of the people
who torture them so cruelly in return for their willing, life-long
drudgery.

We arrived at the foot of the cone at last. The last part of the journey
had been a zigzag climb over miles of lava and black mud and shapeless
rocks, the cooled down ‘vomit of Vesuvius.’

At the foot of the cone is a funicular railway which has been rendered
familiar by the advertisements on most of the Continental
railway-stations.

The price of a seat in one of the cars is £1. We step in, and are hauled
up to the top.

It is something like going up the side of a house on a switchback, and
the process is so alarming that many people still prefer the
old-fashioned method of ascension, and either climb up laboriously or
are carried up in chairs by the guides and porters.

I had an uncomfortable feeling that the rope might break as I made the
ascent, and I was intensely relieved when we reached the mountain
station and stood once more on _terra firma_.

But there is still a further ascent to make on foot to reach the actual
mouth of the crater and look down into the yawning hell that night and
day, for ever and ever, is belching forth flame and smoke, and hurling
large stones and masses of rock into the air with a report that can only
be compared to the discharge of artillery.

As we alight from the funicular, we find ourselves in an awful
atmosphere. We are nearly choked with the noxious fumes of the volcano,
and our eyes are stung and blinded with the sulphurous smoke that
envelops us. The earth trembles beneath our feet, the huge mountain
throbs and gasps from beneath, and thick as hail around falls the shower
of stones that the volcano, with a thunderous roar, hurls unceasingly
into the air.

Still we determine to go on. I have sworn to look into the fiery jaws of
Vesuvius, and I will. Slowly we climb up that ‘awful’ summit--a summit
seething and boiling and steaming at every pore. Only those who have
made the ascent can realize the awful grandeur of the scene which awaits
the intrepid excursionist.

I use the word ‘awful’ advisedly. The stoutest heart will quake at the
spectacle which he beholds for the first time, and the surroundings are
not calculated to diminish the feelings of terror.

During the week I made my ascent a rumour had been published to the
effect that an Englishman who made the ascent of Vesuvius without a
guide had been lost. It is quite possible to be lost on the summit of
Vesuvius. Enveloped in smoke and steam, you may easily, if you are
incautious, become asphyxiated and fall into the crater of the raging
volcano, never to be heard of again.

The Englishman turns out to have been a German, and he has probably
turned up again at his hotel safe and sound, but there was plenty of
justification for the anxiety of his friends.

We take a guide. My companion was on the mountain during one eruption
and had to fly for his life. While we are ascending he tells me the
story, and that does not add to my sense of security.

It was the greatest eruption that had occurred during the present
century, and took place on April 24, 1872. At 4 p.m. a new crater opened
on the side of the mountain, and the lava from it made a circular sweep
round the mountain, threatening to cut off the descent of all the people
who were up above.

My companion, alarmed by the shouts of the guides, guessed something had
happened, and made all haste to descend, and only got down just in time
to find a narrow passage still open, through which he dashed.

By the time he reached the Hermitage the entire side of the mountain was
a sheet of burning lava. He learned afterwards that forty people had
perished on the volcano. The lava overwhelmed two villages--Massa and
San Sebastiano--and at Resina, the village at the foot, nearly a hundred
people were destroyed.

I had joked on the road about an eruption and what a fine thing it would
be to write about; but standing within measurable distance of the seat
of danger I am not only willing but decidedly anxious to postpone the
experiment.

Our guide conducts us cautiously over the yellow masses of sulphurous
rock and the yawning, steaming fissures, and the huge masses of coiled
lava that look like twisted rope. Our feet are parboiled with the steam
that rises from beneath them. The perspiration begins to burst from
every pore. We are in a perfect Turkish bath, or, rather, imperfect one,
in which the noxious fumes and vapours are allowed to escape and choke
the patient.

We cough and sneeze, and I gasp out a prophecy that I shall be choked.
My eyes smart as they have never smarted in the foulest London fog.

‘Close your mouths!’ yells our guide. We close our mouths and make
frantic efforts not to inhale the awful fumes of Vesuvius through our
nostrils, and still we stagger on with trembling limbs and anxious
faces, and at last we stand on the edge of the crater and peer down into
the abyss below.

The sight is terrible, and yet sublime in its grandeur.

Even as we look, blinded and choked, there is a loud report, and
hundreds of large stones are hurled high in the air.

The ground rocks beneath us. There is another report, and another, and
this time huge masses of rock are flung aloft from the infernal depths
of the crater.

I am fascinated by the scene, though I am in a state of mortal terror.
My companion urges me to come away. He has had enough of it, and is
thinking of the day when he had to fly for his life. No one who has ever
seen the burning lava pour down the sides of Vesuvius, and has been in
its path, ever wants to behold the sight again.

I, too, am thinking, but my thoughts have flown farther back than my
friend’s. I am thinking of all the scenes of horror and death and
desolation of which this stupendous volcano has been the cause. I think
of the buried cities that lie around me, hidden for ever beneath the
deadly vomit of the mouth into whose insatiable jaws I stand and gaze.

Herculaneum and Pompeii are below me, and hundreds of villages have been
swallowed up in the bygone centuries, and have left no record on the
pages of history.

I don’t know how long I should have remained gazing down into the jaws
of the volcano, terrified, yet too fascinated to move, had I not felt
symptoms of dizziness coming over me.

Not wishing to share the fate of the gentleman named Empedocles, who in
the year 400 B.C. toppled over into the crater of Mount Etna, I made a
violent effort and stepped slowly backward from the mouth of the crater,
and gradually staggered over the rough rocks and piles of lava until,
steaming and caked with sulphur, I returned to the little restaurant
which has been obligingly built by the authorities at the foot of the
cone.

Here I sat down to rest my weary limbs and recover my dazed senses. We
had a bottle of Vesuvio--a wine made from the grapes which grow on the
southern slopes of the mountain--and then we made our way to the
world-famous observatory on the side of the mountain, over which
Professor Palmieri presides, and which contains a marvellous instrument
called a seismograph.

Professor Palmieri has made Vesuvius the study of his life. By the aid
of his instrument he is able now to know twenty-four hours in advance
whether the intentions of the mountain are honourable or not.

By the kindness of the aged professor I was enabled to examine the
seismograph at my leisure, and I will briefly explain what it is.

It is a marvellous piece of mechanism, so arranged that certain wires
are agitated every time Vesuvius breathes. It is a long way from the
crater--in fact, it is actually on a neighbouring spur, but so perfectly
is it arranged that every movement of the volcano is recorded. While I
watched it the wires trembled--Vesuvius had thrown up a few stones. So
delicate is the mechanism that if you put your wrist within the glass
case which contains it your pulsation causes the wires to be agitated.

In the night, when the ‘observers’ sleep, the seismograph still records
the force of every breath the volcano draws. Attached to spiral wires
are a red pencil and a blue pencil, and underneath the points of these a
piece of tape--such as is used in telegraphing--winds itself round a
reel. Any force or agitation in the centre of the crater brings the
pencils down upon the tape, and causes them to mark it. A spasm of one
kind causes the red pencil to mark the tape, a spasm of another kind
sets the blue pencil off. In the morning the member of the staff on duty
simply looks at the tape, and he can tell exactly what ‘Old ‘Suvy’ has
been up to in the night. This is only a rough outline of what this
wonderful instrument of Professor Palmieri’s can accomplish. To
understand it thoroughly you must see it yourself.

After we had spent a pleasant hour in the observatory, chatting with one
of the attendants, who, by-the-bye, was formerly in the chorus of the
Royal Italian Opera in London, we went down the mountain to the inn at
which our horses had been stabled, and as soon as our coachman was ready
we drove back again to Naples.

I was tired out and fell asleep, only waking up once, just in time to
listen to a pious _pifferari_, who was making music at midnight before
the shrine of the Madonna.

I had a day’s rest after doing Vesuvius, and then I set out for Pompeii.
You can go by rail, so I didn’t this time have to rise at an abnormally
early hour. The train that left Naples for Pompeii might have been a
special from the Tower of Babel. Certainly every European language was
represented in it. When I arrived at Pompeii I was hungry, and I
adjourned at once to a restaurant, where a _table d’hôte_ breakfast was
being served in every language under the European sun. At the little
table at which I managed to find a seat we were English, French, German,
Italian, Spanish, Roumanian, Russian, Pole, and Swede, and the other
Continents were represented by a couple of Australians and three
Americans. But it is an extraordinary thing that, when we conversed
together in scraps of our various languages, we found we were all making
the same joke about the food. The omelette was made with eggs discovered
in Pompeii, which had been laid eighteen hundred years ago. The beef was
from a cow which had been dug up petrified during the latest excavation;
the apples had been found in the house of Diomed, where Diomed had left
them when he fled from the rain of hot ashes that fell upon his doomed
villa on November 24, 79. We all laughed at the joke, and the waiter--a
polyglot personage, who talked fourteen languages all mixed up together
at the same time--laughed too, and told us that it was on record that
ever since there had been a restaurant in Pompeii every traveller who
refreshed at it had perpetrated that very identical joke. And then he
looked very hard at me, and said: ‘But, pardon, sir; do I know you? Is
it not that you are Mr. ----?’ ‘You have guessed it the first time,’ I
replied, putting the idiom into German as well as I could on the spur of
the moment; ‘but where have you known me?’ ‘Ah, you no remember John! I
am John, as was your waiter in sitting-room at the London North-Western
Hotel at Liverpool.’ Oh, these jack-in-the-box sons of the Fatherland!
They pursue me everywhere. Fancy meeting your Liverpool German waiter at
Pompeii!

Of Pompeii itself what can I say in these pages? I want a whole book to
write what I think about it, and then I shall only have said what
hundreds have said before me. To wander about that old-world town,
rescued from its ashes after centuries of oblivion, is to stand aghast
with astonishment at the little progress which civilization has made
with the centuries. The Pompeians had probably forgotten far more than
we shall ever know. One stands absolutely open-mouthed and with starting
eyeballs before the cases in the museum, which contain the Pompeian
lady’s rouge-pot, and the Pompeian doctor’s surgical instruments, and
the pass-out checks for the Pompeian theatre; and the hair of one’s head
stands erect as one comes to a wall in Pompeii, and reads what a rude
little Pompeian boy had chalked upon it just seventy-nine years after
the birth of our Saviour. They knew how to live and how to enjoy
themselves, did those old Pompeians, and the art of making the house
beautiful was far more theirs than ours. Beautiful and perfect as works
of art as are the relics of that past civilization already recovered, it
is almost certain that buried deep down in old Herculaneum are works of
far greater beauty and of still higher art. But new towns have risen
above the old ruins, and the treasure will now probably never be
recovered.

The museum at Pompeii suffers from the best things found in the city
having been sent to the Naples Museum. In the Pompeii collection, after
the dead Pompeians in glass cases, there is very little to see, but they
are wonderful enough to satisfy the greatest curiosity hunter. It gives
one a little flutter of excitement to look at a man, perfect in form and
feature, lying just as he died on that terrible November day in 79--to
see his hands clenched and his teeth set, and the very look of horror on
his face that came there as he fell, fleeing from the doomed city--fell
to rise no more. And in another case lies a beautiful girl of Pompeii,
who died with her arm across her eyes, shutting out the sight of the
swift death that was overtaking her. And near her lies a poor little dog
who died that day. He still wears the collar and chain that bound him to
his kennel and prevented his escape. The poor little Pompeian bow-wow,
who lived one thousand eight hundred years ago, lies upon his side, his
limbs drawn together in agony, his lips parted just as they were when
they gave the last dying whimper of terror and despair. Poor little dog!
He will be handed down perhaps for thousands of years yet to come, for
the wondering eyes of a new race of human beings to gaze upon. That
little dog of A.D. 79 may---- But I mustn’t lose myself in building up a
Rider Haggard romance about that dog. He has achieved immortality, and,
like a good many four-footed immortals, he paid a good price for the
advertisement.

In the Naples Museum the rescued statuary and bronzes and ornaments are
very wonderful; but what interested me much more was the bread taken out
of the oven where it was recently found. It was put in on the day of the
catastrophe, and taken out some years ago. It was new bread then; it is
absolutely the stalest bread in existence now, for it is 1,800 years
old. After the loaves of bread such minor curiosities as the dessert
from a nobleman’s table, a bottle of wine from the cellar of Pliny, and
a patent latchkey found in a Pompeian gentleman’s pocket, fail to
attract more than passing attention. My only astonishment was that
nowhere in the museum could I find any traces of the electric light of
Pompeii, and that among the rescued literature exhibited there was not a
single copy of the Pompeian daily sporting paper. But when I asked the
custodian for these things he took a noble revenge by showing me a
challenge from the Jem Smith of Pompeii to fight the Jake Kilrain of
another town, and the score of a Pompeian tosspot which had been chalked
up behind a tavern door. After this he would be a bold man to deny that
people were quite as advanced in their civilization in 79 as they are
to-day.

All around Naples there are wonderful ruins and natural curiosities,
and, of course, I explored them all. I went to the great sulphur mine of
Pozzuoli and sulphured myself, and I went all over the Temple of Serapis
in the same place, and thoroughly explored the great amphitheatre in
which the famous seafights or Naumachia were held by the Romans. The
centre of the amphitheatre was filled with water, and then hundreds of
slaves and prisoners rowed in and hacked each other to pieces. It was
while exploring the dungeons underground in which the prisoners were
kept that a terrible adventure befell us. Our guide was a local old
gentleman of about ninety--the real genuine oldest inhabitant in the
flesh. He carried a tow torch to light us through the damp, noisome,
winding passages that led to the cells below the earth, and just as we
got into the darkest dungeon the old gentleman fell down in a fit and
his torch went out.

The situation was awful. We had not the slightest idea where we were,
and we hadn’t any matches with us. We shouted aloud, but only the
mocking echo of our own voices answered us. Just as the old gentleman
fell he had told us that we were now in dungeons from which no sound
could escape. We groped about in the dark, and tried to find a passage,
but only with the result that I found myself in one dark dungeon and
Albert Edward got into another, and we could neither of us find our way
back to the old gentleman. We gave ourselves up for lost. We had not
even the hope which the ancient prisoners had of being dragged out into
the arena to make a fight of it. We should perish by inches in the
secret dungeons of the great Roman amphitheatre of Pozzuoli. Just as we
had abandoned hope, and I was trying to scratch a last message to the
world on the wall with the point of my scarf-pin, a distant murmur
reached our ears. It grew nearer and nearer. We shouted; on it came. We
heard English words spoken by English lips. A guide was bringing another
party to the secret dungeons. They entered and found us, and between us
we carried the epileptic old gentleman upstairs into the light of day,
and got him some cold water and brought him round. But I registered a
vow never again to visit dungeons with an elderly gentleman subject to
fits, and with a tow torch of limited powers of endurance.

In Naples my principal amusement was buying lottery tickets and going to
the theatre. I didn’t get much out of the lottery, but I was vastly
amused at the theatre, as I sought out the smaller houses where plays in
the Neapolitan dialect, with Pulcinella as the principal comedian, were
given. One evening’s entertainment was unique in my experience, and will
remain impressed upon my mind while memory maintains a sitting position.
I had heard much of the marionettes and puppet-shows, and so one evening
I found my way to the Teatro Mercadante, where marionettes were
announced to appear in a grand play, entitled ‘The Universal Deluge,’
and in the great ballet of ‘Excelsior.’

I fancied, of course, that I was going to a small puppet-show. Imagine
my astonishment when I arrived at a real theatre with a real box office,
and found that the prices of admission ranged from one lira (equal to a
franc) to twenty lire. I paid ten lire for a private box, and on
entering the theatre found a huge audience assembled--an audience not of
children, but of grown men and women, of well-dressed ladies and
gentlemen armed with fans and opera-glasses--just the same kind of
audience, in fact, that assembles at the Lyceum, or the Criterion, or
the Gaiety. There was an orchestra, too, of twenty performers, and
programmes were sold, and when the curtain rose on ‘The Universal
Deluge,’ the great grown-up audience settled itself down to enjoy the
tragedy enacted by wooden dolls.

When I saw the scene, and Noah and his sons and daughters and the
priests came on and conversed, and raised their arms to heaven, and
generally conducted themselves in a manner worthy of Sir Henry Irving’s
company in ‘Hamlet’ or ‘King Lear,’ I was speechless with surprise. The
talking is, of course, done at the wings, but the gestures of the
puppets were perfect. There was a little lack of dignity occasionally in
the walk off, because the feet sometimes did not quite touch the ground,
but the figures being made to appear life-size by the dwarfing and
arrangement of the scenery, the illusion was at times simply marvellous.
Noah embraced his children; he fell on his knees and raised his hands to
heaven; he denounced the wicked, and he gave off long and impressive
speeches with such perfect dignity and appropriateness of gesture that
he speedily established himself as a great actor in the eyes of the
audience. He made his points amid rounds of applause, and at the end of
a really magnificent piece of acting he got such a terrific recall that
he came on and bowed his acknowledgments. Never did well-trained actor
take a call so gracefully as this wooden puppet, and never did trained
actor more thoroughly carry his audience away.

The second scene was the day of the Deluge. The skies were stormy and
ominous; peals of thunder were heard. Noah made one final appeal to the
wicked crowd of dolls, who only mocked him and went off to continue
their evil ways. Then Noah knelt down, and, joining his hands, indulged
in a short prayer, after which he opened the ark doors, and his sons and
daughters, each embracing him, passed in. Then he had a grand exit
speech, and walked up the plank into the ark, turning at the door with
true stage instinct to give off his exit speech. Then, the human beings
having taken their places, the animals commenced to arrive two by two.
The animals were wonderful wooden imitations of the real thing, and they
walked and pricked their ears and wagged their tails, each species
stopping just at the ark door to roar, or to bark, or to neigh, or to
crow, or hee-haw, as the case might be. The two donkeys displayed great
courage on the eve of such a catastrophe, for they kicked up their heels
and relieved the scene with considerable low comedy, retiring at last
amid roars of laughter and rounds of applause. Then the serpents
wriggled up, and then came the birds. Unfortunately a number of the
birds were real ones, and some of them flew into the theatre instead of
into the ark. Instantly the huge audience, with true Neapolitan cruelty,
set up a yell, and stretched out their hands to capture the frightened
little things, and the gallery boys hurled their caps at them, and the
crowded house rose and hooted and shouted, and was only satisfied when
the poor birds had been caught and killed. After all the animals were in
the ark, the door was closed; then a terrible rain descended on the
earth--the best rain I have ever seen on the stage. It was so real that
I found myself picking up my umbrella in my private box. Now the waters
rose rapidly, the ark began to pitch and toss, the wild lightnings
flashed, and the audience was hushed to a silence that might be felt. In
a moment the wicked were seen climbing to the mountain summits, only to
be washed off and carried away. Mothers clung to their children,
husbands clutched madly at their drowning wives, and the angry billows
were thick with struggling human beings--I beg pardon, struggling with
puppets. How all these figures were worked so naturally is a puzzle to
me. The action was never jerky or mechanical; it was natural--so natural
that the scene became painful. One poor doll mother held her doll baby
in her arms and smothered it with kisses as the cruel wave swept them
away, and a doll husband perished in agony locked in his young doll
wife’s embrace. But safely, amid all the horrors and the cries of the
doomed, the brave old ark rode the angry waters, until the dove flew
out, and presently returned with an olive-branch. Then the waves were
still, day dawned over the scene, and Noah, with the limelight full upon
his patriarchal head, knelt at the ark door and returned thanks to
Heaven for its mercy to him and his, and then the band played soft,
sweet music, and the curtain slowly fell upon ‘The Universal Deluge.’

If this was wonderful, what can I say of the ballet of ‘Excelsior’ which
followed? I have seen this famous ballet at San Carlo in Naples, at the
Eden in Paris, and at Her Majesty’s in London, but I have never seen it
performed with such vigour as by the wooden troop of artists engaged at
the Mercadante. The complete ballet was given, with the music, the
scenery, the dances, and the various tableaux. The _corps de ballet_
went through the complicated figures with a precision that would have
gladdened the heart of Monsieur Jacobi at the Alhambra, and the leading
lady, Miss Emma Wood, as she was playfully called in the playbill, won
all hearts by the grace and finish of her dancing. She leapt a little
higher perhaps than Palladino or Pitteri ever did, and now and then she
didn’t trouble to touch the boards with her twinkling little feet; but
here, as in the tragedy, the action was excellent, and when, after a
magnificent _pas seul_, Miss Wood was called, she came on and bowed
right and left with the most exquisite grace. The dramatic scenes of the
ballet were perfectly played, and from start to finish it was thoroughly
appreciated by the audience, who remained in the theatre from eight
until nearly midnight, applauding and enjoying the really artistic
performance of these wooden actors and actresses. When the curtain had
descended and we all filed out into the street, it seemed to me that I
had at last discovered the secret of true happiness for a dramatic
author. It was to live in a country where his plays could be interpreted
by puppets. And oh, what a paradise such a land must be to the
theatrical manager! No quarrels among the company, no trouble with the
leading man, no indisposition of the leading lady, and no salaries to
pay, except those of the voices at the wings and the men who work the
strings of the puppets from the flies.

From that night I went only to puppet shows. Even a grand opera at San
Carlo could not tempt me away from them. I saw dramas and comedies and
farcical comedies played by dolls, and I saw everywhere packed audiences
roaring with delight at their antics, or weeping in sympathy with their
sorrows.

Funerals at Naples are among the curious spectacles of the town. Being
of a cheerful disposition, I always run after a funeral. The body is
carried on a bier by four masked men, and a procession of masked men
follows. These masked men are the Brethren of the Misericordia. Rich
funerals have a grand open hearse in which the coffin is placed, and two
priests, with lighted candles, sit inside at the head of the coffin. The
coffin is always smothered in flowers.

The practice of exposing the dead to the public view still obtains in
Naples. Recently, in one of the small streets, a baker lost his only
daughter, a very beautiful girl of sixteen. I saw her after she was
dead, because the baker had cleared all the bread from his shop-window
and put his pretty dead daughter there instead. And for a whole day she
lay there, surrounded with beautiful white camellias and lovely flowers,
until it was time for her to be placed on the bier and carried off to
the Campo Santo.

The lottery playing in Naples is the curse of the town. Almost every
second shop is a lottery shop, and all ranks gamble from week to week.
The system is not to buy a ticket, but to back certain numbers to come
out. The numbers run from one to ninety, and five are drawn every week.
You can play the single number, the ambo, and the terno--that is, two
numbers or three, and four and five if you like. If you play the ambo
you name two numbers to come out, and if you are right you are paid by
the Government three hundred times your stake. That stake can be what
you like, from a penny to a pound. If you back a terno you get
proportionately more; if you name all five you get sixty thousand times
your stake.

With this game brought within the reach of all classes, you can readily
imagine that the lottery shops are besieged all day long. Every
peasant, every servant, every beggar plays at the lottery. The vice is
national; it is in the blood; it is part of the Neapolitan character.
There are a hundred superstitions among the people concerning the
lottery. If you meet a white horse you play such and such a number: if
you meet a funeral, if you hear a donkey bray, if you see a man with red
whiskers--whatever happens, the Neapolitan takes it as an augury of a
certain number, and he plays it accordingly.

Some of the priests have great success in foretelling successful
numbers. One of the monks who walk about soliciting alms once had a
great reputation. To anyone who gave him charity he whispered a number.
He was so successful that at last he could not move out without being
surrounded by crowds, who demanded a number to play. He lost his temper,
and refused to tell anybody. The crowd thereupon seized him, and he was
carried away and shut up in a cellar in a house, where he was beaten
with a stick to make him tell the number. Still he refused, and they
swore they would keep him prisoner until he consented; but the poor
priest fell ill, and then, getting alarmed lest he should die, his
assailants took him out and put him in the street, where he was picked
up by the police. He was taken to the hospital, where he died, but
before he breathed his last he gave ‘numbers’ to the sick in his ward.
They told others, and the entire hospital--patients, doctors, and
nurses--played the poor monk’s numbers, an ambo, and those numbers came
out of the wheel. The Naples lottery lost an enormous sum, but it gained
again next week, when every living soul put every shilling they had got
in the world on the poor monk’s terno, which, fortunately for the
Government, didn’t come out as the ambo had done.

There is one remarkable feature about the Naples Museum, which is, that
each of the old gentlemen who act as custodians of a room quietly
whispers into your ear that he should like to do business with you. One
dear old boy actually found out my hotel, and arrived in the evening and
asked to see me, having with him a book about the museum which he was
sure I should like to buy, as it was very rare and very curious. When I
had bought it I discovered that it was the 1888 edition of a work
published in Ludgate Hill, London.

The English are the special prey of the touts in the Museum--in fact,
they seem to be special prey everywhere. Everybody in Naples knows
enough English to waylay them with. Even the objectionable ‘guides’ who
stand outside the Café de l’Europe at night, and in the expressive
language of the country are called ‘ruffiani,’ ply their highly
objectionable calling in the Anglo-Saxon tongue. And a little barefooted
Neapolitan imp who sells matches outside the San Carlo Theatre shouts
morning, noon, and night, in a shrill treble, ‘Here yare, sare--vant
some matches!’ In addition to this a peripatetic trade in Holywell
Street literature and art is openly plied by men in the streets, who
expatiate upon the character of their wares in fluent English, and
follow the British or American tourist for a quarter of a mile in their
endeavour to persuade him to become a purchaser.

After all, England is not such a great place in everybody’s eyes as it
is in our own. I travelled with an Italian priest from Naples to
Pompeii, and we told each other stories in French--not French stories,
_bien entendu_. He had just come from Sicily, where he had been tutor in
a great Duke’s family, and when he wanted to teach the Duke’s son some
English history, the Duke said: ‘Nonsense! let him learn the history of
Sicily first; what is the use of his troubling about the small countries
like England?’ I met a Neapolitan, too, not long ago--a Neapolitan Count
from Otranto--who asked me many questions concerning England. I told him
it was a great country. ‘Is it as great a country as Greece?’ he said.
‘Oh, much greater!’ I replied; ‘the two are not to be compared.’ The
Count shook his head. ‘I can’t believe it!’ he exclaimed; ‘I see many
Greek ships at Otranto, but very seldom an English one.’



CHAPTER XVI.

VENICE.


It was an awful journey from Naples to Venice. I had another half-hour
in Rome _en route_. ‘Half an hour in Rome'--doesn’t it sound terrible?
Fancy being in Rome and going no further than the refreshment-room in
the railway-station! And at Bologna I was nearly frozen to death. The
snow lay thick everywhere, and the mountain passes looked like seas of
ice. When I arrived in Venice there was a dull November fog lying over
the city, and my heart went down into my boots. But I recovered myself
sufficiently to get into a gondola, which, however graceful it may be on
a fine day, looked on this occasion more like a frowning hearse than
ever. I asked if I couldn’t have a carriage and drive to the hotel, as
it was so foggy on the water. The gondolier stared at me in blank
amazement. ‘And where would monsieur get the horses?’ he said; and then
I learnt for the first time that there are no horses in Venice, and that
the gondola is absolutely the only means of locomotion. Some of the
Venetians, those who have never been to the mainland, have never seen a
horse in all their lives. A showman once brought one to a fair, and
called it a monster, and the factory girls and boys paid sixpence each
to see the marvellous curiosity.

This utter absence of wheels and animals makes this city in the sea a
city of silence and of perfect rest. A sense of perfect bliss steals
over the tired traveller from the towns of noise, and he glides along
past the marble palaces in his gondola as in a dream. And Venice is a
dream. The wonderful stories of her Bridge of Sighs, the weird tales of
the old romancers and poets, are all dreams. At any rate, they are not
true. But Venice is beautiful, and, though much of the romance that
enshrined her has been swept away by the ruthless hand of the modern
literary inquisitor, ‘A Day with the Doges’ is a day to be remembered in
one’s life, and Venice remains a city unique in the world. My gondolier
took me down short cuts--waterways all of them--which were overpowering
in their odour. We glided swiftly over waters that were simply floating
refuse heaps and dustbins. But out of the fishy water rose now and then
a glorious palace that made amends for all. Cutting into the Grand Canal
from one of these water-lanes, we grounded on the mud, and stuck there
for four or five minutes; but the spirit of romance breathed o’er the
scene, and I felt that I could have stuck in the mud for ever and not
found the position monotonous.

I was lucky enough to see the beginning of the Carnival in Venice, and
to make the acquaintance of a gentleman who has a palace on the Grand
Canal, and who was kind enough to take me about in his gondola and show
me everything. On the Rialto one afternoon, wanting to find out where
Shylock lived, I approached a gentleman, who was smoking a cigarette and
lounging about. I asked him my question in Italian. He replied in
English, with a strong German accent: ‘That’s the house--that one
yonder, Mr. ----,’ giving me my correct name. I stared at him. ‘Ah,’ he
said, ‘I thought you didn’t know me. I’m at Danielli’s Hotel here, but I
used to be coffee-room waiter at the Palace Hotel, Aberdeen. Don’t you
remember me now?’

One of the great show places of Venice is the museum of the Arsenal. Of
course I stopped enraptured before the magnificent gold barge in which
the old Doges went forth and married the Adriatic, flinging a gold ring
into the sea; but what interested me most was the case which contained
relics of Duke Francesco Carrara, commonly called ‘the Tyrant of Padua.’
I was in a very bad temper myself the day I saw his ‘relics.’ The bitter
cold had upset my liver, and made me extra fiendish, and so I felt in
perfect sympathy with the gentleman who wreaked his vengeance on his
enemies in the most ingeniously diabolical manner possible.

The first ‘specimen’ which attracts your attention is a beautifully
decorated jewel-box--all velvet and gold, and set with precious stones.
Duke Francis was in love with a lady who one day snubbed him before
company. Francis smiled a sweet smile and bit his lip, but never by word
or deed allowed the fair charmer to see that she had trodden on his
corns. But when her birthday came round he sent her anonymously this
beautiful box, with an inscription upon it to say that it was from an
unknown admirer to the Queen of Beauty. When the box was delivered the
lady was out, so her maid took it in, and, with the natural curiosity of
the female sex, she began to wonder what the beautiful box contained. It
was delivered uncovered, and attached to it by a ribbon was a little
golden key. The maid thought to herself, ‘I’ll just open this, and see
what lovely thing is inside it for my mistress.’ She put the golden key
in the lock, she gave it a turn; up then flew the lid, and all that
remained of the inquisitive maid was gathered up from the floor and
scraped off the walls. The Duke’s notion of a birthday present for a
lady who had rejected his addresses was decidedly original, was it not?
He must have been the ancestor of the gentleman who, when Sir William
Harcourt was Home Secretary, used to send him such curious hampers and
brown-paper parcels.

Another delightful relic of the life and times of the Tyrant of Padua is
in the same case as the beautiful box. It is a simple key--about the
size of an ordinary door-key. It was the key of the Duke’s library in
his private room. When he wanted to get rid of any of his suite or any
person of his household, he used to ring his bell and ask for Mr. John
to be sent to him (fancy name, of course). When John entered, the Duke
would say: ‘Oh, John, I wish you would go to the bookcase in my private
room and bring me Lecky’s “European Morals.”’ ‘Certainly, your grace,’
Mr. John would say; and away he would trot with the key in his hand.
When he got to the library, he would put the key in the lock of the
bookcase and turn it. But directly he turned it, out of the handle of
the key shot a long poisoned needle, which stabbed the hand of the
holder, and instantly shot back again. John would take his hand from the
key, and say: ‘What the deuce was that?’ He would look at his hand and
see only a small dark blue spot. He would think nothing of it, but all
of a sudden he would begin to feel queer in his head. Presently someone
would come in and find him in a fit on the floor, and the household
would be alarmed. ‘Mr. John has had a stroke or a fit,’ the people would
say. A doctor would be sent for, but his services would be of no avail.
In twenty-four hours Mr. John would be dead, and everybody would think
that he had died through a fit. There were no bothering coroners’
inquests to upset the plans of clever fellows like Duke Francis in those
days.

Everybody knows what a Venetian gondola is, but I doubt if everybody
knows why they are all of one pattern, and all black and funereal. My
Venetian friend gave me the information. What brought the subject up was
this. As we passed along the Grand Canal, he pointed out to me Sir Henry
Layard’s palace. Sir Henry’s gondola was waiting at his door. ‘Why,’ I
said, ‘it’s exactly the same pattern as yours; everybody here seems to
have the same pattern and colour. Wouldn’t it be gayer if there were a
little variety?’

‘It would,’ replied my friend, after he had pointed out to me the palace
of the late Comte de Chambord and the palace which Taglioni, the famous
danseuse, bought for her son, and which the naughty son lost in one
night at cards. ‘It would,’ replied my friend: ‘but the fashion is the
result of a sumptuary law of olden times. In those days there was
constant rivalry between the nobles and the wealthy merchants of Venice.
The merchants went out in glorious gondolas that cost thousands of
pounds. The nobles tried to outdo them. The liveries of the gondoliers
cost small fortunes. At last the nobles, who were not so rich as the
merchants, found that they were crippling themselves to have more
magnificent gondolas than the merchants. So, like artful fellows, having
influence in the council of the city, they got a law passed which
compelled every gondola on the canal to be of one pattern and one
colour, whether private or public.’ The design was the gondola which
to-day walks the Grand Canal like a thing of li---- like a thing of
death, because it is a floating funeral-coach, and nothing else.

A funeral at Venice is very curious. A gondola in black and silver comes
for the body at the house of mourning. The coffin is put into the open
boat, and the family and the priests then get in and sit round it. The
gondoliers are dressed in black and silver, and they row away towards
the cemetery, which stands in the middle of a broad lagoon. The sight is
a mournful and impressive one. It is far pleasanter to see the great
canal and the glorious city bathed in moonlight, and to watch the
gondolas filled with gaily-dressed masqueraders and masqueraderesses in
all their Carnival finery as they float along to the sound of music and
of song. I have never been so carried away by the dreamy beauty of a
scene as I was when a boat-load of laughing damsels in dainty costumes
stopped just under my sitting-room window one night and serenaded me. It
was a delicate little attention, for which I found I was indebted to my
Venetian friend.



CHAPTER XVII.

MILAN.


I am going to see a gentleman cremated at the famous monumental cemetery
of Milan. I am specially invited to be present at nine o’clock in the
morning, and if my courage does not ooze out of my fingers’ ends, I
shall certainly go in the interest of my readers who may wish to be
cremated, and who would like to know beforehand what they have to go
through and what it is like.

To the ‘crematorio’ of Milan people are brought from all parts of the
world. The room in which the furnace is situated is a very nice
comfortable one, and there are black chairs set against the walls, in
which the friends of the deceased sit and wait while his body is in the
oven. The process is very simple. Suppose you want to be cremated. You
are brought into the room dressed in a nice white shirt and drawers, and
you are gently laid on an iron plate that looks like a large tea-tray
turned up at the ends. As soon as the oven is sufficiently heated the
door is opened, and you are pushed into a receptacle inside on the tray,
much on the same principle as a baker puts bread into the oven. The door
is then closed for two hours, and then the iron coffer is taken out.
Inside it your friends see a nice white powder and a few fragments of
white-coloured bone. That is you. You are then put into an urn, or glass
box, or anything you like, and put away in a nice little locker in the
great hall of the cemetery. Outside your locker is a lid with your name
and the date of your cremation inscribed on it.

I was shown in this hall, in a glass case, the ashes of a lady, aged
twenty-six, who was cremated a year or two since. She left her body in
her will to be burned, and afterwards shown in the interests of the
Cremation Society. Outside, in the grounds, there is a monument to her,
and on it in a glass frame is her photograph. She was a very pretty
lady, and it is difficult to imagine that she is the same person as the
little heap of white ashes in the glass jar. But she is.

It is a general I am to see cremated. He has been brought a long
distance in a coffin, and is temporarily deposited in the cemetery. The
performance is public, and there are no reserved seats. From what I have
seen it is absolutely devoid of offensiveness in any way, and all the
officials are smiling, happy-looking folks. I took so much interest in
the place that the chief official fancied I might one day be a customer.
He pointed out to me that in the hall of the cemetery the places for
‘urns’ to be deposited were booking fast, and would soon be quite full.
He had a capital stall--I mean locker--to let in the third row and one
in the fifth. The offer was very tempting, but I didn’t close with it.

I don’t know whether many people, when they are exhilarated by Nature’s
champagne, cry out, ‘I’m glad I’m alive.’ I do sometimes, and just at
present I have very good grounds for the exclamation. I have been
cremated, and that is enough to make any man rejoice that he can see and
hear and eat and smoke a cigar.

As I told you, I had an invitation to the ‘crematorio’ of Milan to see a
general cremated, which I accepted. Wonderful things have happened
since then, and that they may be understood let me proceed methodically.
On the day preceding the proposed cremation I made up my mind to spend
the evening at La Scala, with the exception of the San Carlo at Naples
the largest theatre in the world. I sent to the office for a box, and
was told there were none; they were all let. If I wanted one I must
apply to a subscriber who did not intend to use his that night. Off I
started in search of a subscriber. I inquired of the ladies and
gentlemen I met in the street, all in my choicest Italian, ‘Pray, have
you a box at La Scala, and do you intend to use it?’ At last in the
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele I met an old lady, who told me her master,
the Count Somebody, was out of town. I could have his key for fifty
francs. I sent to the address she gave, and received the key, and in the
evening marched into the theatre, unlocked my box, and was, for the time
being, _chez moi_. It seems droll to an Englishman to buy a key instead
of a ticket, but this is a common way of doing business in Italy, where,
in some of the theatres, the boxes are bought right out by nobles and
others for a lifetime. This perpetual proprietorship accounts for the
fact that the boxes are many of them differently decorated and lined.
Some are blue, some green, some red--all are furnished after the fancy
of the owner, and the general effect to the foreign eye is _bizarre_ in
the extreme.

The performance was, of course, magnificent. They know how to sing and
how to mount an opera at La Scala, and there were some processions and
stage pictures in ‘Don Carlos’ that Sir Augustus might have studied, and
Sir Henry made notes of. After the opera there was a ballet. It was a
prologue and six acts, and I was very interested in it, so much so that
I forgot for a long time to look at my watch, and when I did, in the
middle of the fourth act, I found it was 1.30.

I went home and to bed at once. I had to be in the cemetery by nine in
the morning to see the General cremated, and was terribly tired. I awoke
in the morning at 8.30. Then began a struggle in my mind. Should I dress
and rush up to the cemetery without my breakfast? I hesitated. A man
wants a meal before he sees a sight like that. I hesitated, and I was
lost, for I turned over and went to sleep again, and when I woke it was
10.30. The General was finished, and I had not been there to see.

I was sorry that, like my Lord Tomnoddy who went to the coffee-house
opposite Newgate, I had slept too long, but after a ballet that lasts
until 2 a.m. a man may be excused if he doesn’t get up in time for a
cremation at nine. I had made special arrangements with the officials
and a famous scientific gentleman of Milan, who was most anxious for me
to publish an account of the proceedings in England, and the thing
worried me a little all day; but at night I stepped into a compartment
in the sleeping-car for Lugano, and forgot all about the matter. Just,
however, as the train was starting and my eyes were closing in sleep--I
had dined well an hour previously--who should enter the car but the
scientific gentleman. ‘They told me where to find you at the hotel,’ he
said. ‘Come out at once; there’s a cremation to-night.’ ‘But my ticket,’
I said; ‘I must go on to Lugano.’ ‘Bother your ticket! Come with me, and
see what I’ll show you. You’ll never regret it.’ Before I could
expostulate further he had me out of the station and into a cab, and we
were soon driving along through the night in the direction of the
cemetery.

As we entered the gates the moon was high, and the figures of angels
and women in white marble, keeping guard over the graves, had a ghostly
effect. It was with something like a shudder that I passed through the
black doors of the chapel-like building where the crematory rites are
performed. The furnace was roaring already, and the heat was intense. I
glanced at the metal tray raised to the level of the oven, expecting to
see the body ready, but, to my surprise, this was empty. I turned to my
guide. ‘Where is the person to be cremated?’ I asked. ‘Here,’ was the
reply, and he touched me on the shoulder. Instantly I was seized, and
bound, and gagged, and hoisted on to the awful tray, where I lay dumb
and helpless. ‘You wished to have a thorough knowledge of cremation,’
said the fiend who had lured me to this awful place. ‘You shall have
it.’ I tried to scream; I tried to burst my bonds--all, all in vain. The
great doors of the oven were flung open, and there came forth a great
gust of heat that seemed to scorch my living flesh. Slowly the tray
moved nearer and nearer to the mouth of the oven. I was going to my
death--to be cremated alive! The heat grew more and more intense. I
scorched and singed; my eyeballs started from their sockets; my body
seemed to swell and crack. Suddenly with a violent jerk I was shot
forward into the oven, the great doors closed on me with a clang----
and--and--the conductor of the sleeping-car came rushing into my berth
to know what was the matter.

I woke with a start. The heat was intense, the fumes of the charcoal
terrible, and I had been dreaming a dyspeptic dream in my berth. Moral:
Never travel by an overheated sleeping-car after thinking about
cremation all day.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A REVOLUTION IN TICINO.


All things come to those who wait. I have waited nearly a fortnight in
Ticino for a revolution, and I have seen it at last. I have seen the
soldiers charge the mob, and I have seen the mob stone the soldiers. I
have seen the soldiers retire with cracked skulls, and I have seen the
citizens flying to the chemists and the doctors to have their bayonet
wounds dressed. I have seen a town suddenly seized with panic, the
streets cleared, the shops shut, and the cafés barred and bolted. And it
all happened in a minute, without the slightest warning. It all happened
just when I had packed my portmanteau and was going to leave Ticino
because the excitement was over and everything was getting insufferably
dull, and the weather was giving the Ticinese a seasonable hint to keep
indoors by their wood fires and to abandon politics as an outdoor
amusement.

Last Sunday was the day of the general election all over Switzerland for
members of the National Council, which sits at Berne. In Ticino the
greatest interest attached to the election, because of recent
unfortunate events and the terrible pitch which the enmity long existing
between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party had reached.

On Sunday in Ticino things went off pretty quietly. I was in Lugano, and
spent the morning watching the voters as they went to the poll and the
populace that stood about the public squares and discussed the
situation. The Liberals made a big show in Lugano. The trees of liberty,
surmounted by the hat of William Tell, were everywhere decorated with
the red flag of Radicalism. To some of them were affixed wreaths of
laurel ‘offered by the Liberal ladies of Lugano'; others were ornamented
with Liberal inscriptions couched in language that, to say the least of
it, was thorough. The Italian--I beg pardon, the Ticinese--politician is
given to discuss matters as much with his hands as with his tongue, and
all day long an energetic crowd indulged in vehement finger-wagging and
hand-elevating, which would have given a stranger not used to the wealth
of Italian gesture an idea that St. Vitus’s dance was a national
disease.

The Liberals were easily distinguished from the Conservatives by red
ties, by red feathers worn bravely in enormous brigand hats, and by red
flowers in their buttonholes. Every Liberal sported a little red, and
even the Liberal ladies had arrayed themselves in accordance with their
political sympathies.

Apart from the idea that the election of October 26 might lead to a
little revolution, I was interested in it for another reason. Was not my
old friend Agostino Gatti, of the Adelaide Gallery and of the Adelphi
Theatre, a Consigliere di Stato? and was not Agostino Gatti up for
re-election as one of the six members for Ticino in the National Council
of Switzerland?

It was a great day for all Ticino. Every man was expected to vote, and
nearly every man did. Some of them travelled miles and miles to fulfil
the duty of citizenship. I soon found out how seriously the Ticinese
take politics. Very early on Sunday morning my waiter hurried me over my
breakfast with a thousand apologies; he was going to vote, and his
native place was in a valley across the lake ten miles away. The porter
brought me a day’s supply of wood to my room before I was up; a thousand
pardons, but he had to catch an early train that he might go home to
vote. There was not a flyman outside my hotel when I went out; they had
all gone to vote. The boats upon the lake lay floating empty on the
wave; the boatmen had all gone to vote. When I went into the
_salle-à-manger_ I quite expected to see a note to the effect that, ‘In
consequence of all the waiters having gone home to vote, there will be
no _table d’hôte_.’

Giuseppe, my sitting-room waiter, is a Conservative; Napoléon, the
_salle-à-manger_ waiter, is a fierce Radical. Between them I endeavoured
to arrive at the truth of the various incidents which they narrated for
my benefit. Giuseppe hails from the village to which poor Rossi
belonged--Rossi, the unfortunate victim of the brutal outrage of
September 11. Rossi was a young man universally beloved and respected.
He had only joined the Government a few months. He had never done any
man harm; he was only recently married, and he was assassinated in cold
blood in the name of civil and religious liberty. Giuseppe trembles so
violently with rage when he tells me of Rossi, his fellow-townsman, that
I expect him to drop the tray every moment; but Napoléon talks of it
calmly, says it was a pity, but won’t have it that the Radicals are to
blame for it. But I am digressing. Of Giuseppe and Napoléon more anon.

I wait patiently opposite the Municipio all day expecting a
demonstration, and none comes. So I fill up my time by noting one or two
minor matters. A gentleman selling fowls wrings their necks one by one
_coram populo_, and I watch the process till I feel sick. A Conservative
dog creates a diversion by having a furious fight with a Radical dog.
The dogs are arrayed in their masters’ colours, and the red dog walks up
to the blue dog in a most insulting manner. Then the row begins, and all
the dogs of Lugano rush to the square and take sides. Heaven only knows
if it would not have ended in a dog revolution had the Federal troops
not interfered. Two soldiers separated the combatants, and once more,
thanks to the Federal bayonets, peace is restored.

In the evening we get the news. The Conservatives have gained a majority
all over Ticino. The Liberals are glum, and, after a night spent in the
cafés, I walk home with Albert Edward, and we both prophesy trouble on
the morrow. We have heard what we have heard, and we have seen what we
have seen.

On Monday there was general Conservative jubilation. The church bells
rang violently; from the mountain-tops guns were fired and bonfires were
lighted. The little boys formed themselves into processions, and waved
flags and shouted through the villages, and dogs, decked out in
Conservative colours, followed proudly at the heels of their little
Conservative masters. And here, on the eve of the lamentable outbreak
which took place at Lugano on Monday evening, let me give you a few
particulars of the first revolution which led up to all the recent
trouble and excitement.

The revolution was a prearranged affair. In Lugano they managed it this
way. Some men went into a field and made a bonfire, which caused a great
smoke. Then some of their confederates suddenly rang the fire-alarm from
the church belfry. Out rushed the officers from the Municipio to see
what was the matter, and in rushed the revolutionists and took
possession of the building. The Government officers were seized and
dragged to prison. The mob rushed into the cafés and laid violent hands
on prominent Conservatives, yelling, ‘To prison! to prison!’ It was
Bedlam broken loose, for surely there was nothing but madness in what
followed.

Every Conservative was threatened by the Liberals--the active
Conservatives were actually seized and put in prison--an instance of the
height of absurdity to which this so-called ‘revolution’ was carried.
The man on duty at one of the little piers where the steamers embark
passengers was known to be a Conservative. He was seized and threatened
with imprisonment. ‘What for?’ he exclaimed. ‘You are a Conservative!’
yelled his Liberal aggressors. The same thing happened to shopkeepers,
to boatmen, to fly-drivers; the one cry was, ‘To prison with the
Conservatives!'--and all this was done in the sacred name of Liberty,
Equality, and Fraternity.

It is really worth pausing for a moment to reflect that these things
were actually done in a Republic, and by a party whose watchword was
‘Liberty.’ It is difficult to treat the thing as anything but a huge
burlesque. ‘In the name of Liberty I put you in prison because your
political views are not mine.’ Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest
it--reflect on it! Here is a Republic which claims to be the government
of the free by the free, and in this Republic there is a party which
calls itself the party of freedom, and its first act, when by force or
by stratagem it has snatched temporary power, is to seize and imprison
every fellow-citizen whose views upon politics and religion are at
variance with its own.

My own belief is that the Liberals of Ticino in their discontent allowed
themselves to be the dupes and the tools of a party of disorder, a party
which has its headquarters over the frontier. I have seen upon the walls
of Bellinzona a proclamation issued by a society which has its
headquarters in Italy, and, putting two and two together, I look a
little below the surface of what is generally called politics for the
origin of the Ticino revolt against law and order. These things might
perhaps be left for the Ticinese to settle among themselves, but
unfortunately they have been done in the name of ‘the Liberal party,’
and Liberalism generally all over the world is injured and discredited
by such a display of intolerance and persecution on the part of a
section of those who profess it and make it their watchword.

But, after all, but for the brutal murder of Rossi, and some subsequent
bloodshed, the whole affair might perhaps have been charitably dismissed
as a display of what the German calls ‘Kinderei.’ The remark of a
Cockney tourist who was in Lugano with me, that it was ‘like a lot of
kids playing at revolution,’ is a fair translation of the German
expression. The utter childishness of some of the proceedings which are
now agitating the Swiss Republic is beyond dispute. The Ticinese have
given us a revolution _pour rire_, and the whole thing, the murder of
Rossi apart, is a cyclone in a coffee-cup, a hurricane in a half-pint
pot.

So much for the revolution of September 11; now for the revolution of
October 27. I have told you that the Conservatives of Lugano rang the
church bells in their joy. On Monday afternoon the Liberals, having had
enough of the Conservative rejoicings, thought they would have a turn.
So they brought a cannon on the public square and began to discharge it.
Now, cannon-firing in a public square is not exactly a parlour pastime,
and an officer who was in charge of a small body of soldiers ordered the
gay Liberal youths to ‘cease firing.’ They argued the point; the officer
insisted, and then--well, nobody knows how it began. The Conservatives
say the mob threw stones at the officer; the Liberals say the soldiers
attacked the crowd; at any rate, stones were thrown and the mob was
charged, and presently the soldiers were prodding the people and blood
was flowing and stones were flying, and Lugano had another little
revolution in miniature all to itself. I was with Albert Edward, and in
the middle of it, and I am not ashamed to confess that we executed a
strategic movement to the rear and sought the friendly shelter of the
Farmacia Internazionale.

Half an hour afterwards the streets were cleared. Every shop and every
café was shut, and only groups of excited men gathered under the arcades
and discussed the situation. It had been severe while it lasted. I saw
plenty of blood--less would have satisfied me--and unfortunately a
number of women and children in the crowd were seriously frightened, and
I believe a few of them hurt, in the absurd proceedings. A number of
wounds were dressed by the chemists of the town that evening, and
several of the soldiers were taken to the hospital.

All the troops in Ticino are from the German cantons. Between the German
Swiss and the Italian Swiss there is no love lost. The troops have been
attacked, and some of the soldiers injured by the people. Relations are
now naturally more strained than ever. Some unlucky day something may
happen, and then---- Well, let us hope for the best.

The journals of the rival parties and the placards of the rival parties
are not going the way to mend matters. _Il Credente Cattolico_ comes out
every day with a black band round it, and it prints on its title-page
‘Il Sangue di Rossi invoca Giustizia'--the blood of Rossi calls for
justice. It also pleasantly describes the Liberals as the ‘congrega di
Satana'--the congregation of Satan. _La Liberta_, after a terrific
onslaught, calls attention ‘alle infami manovre Radicali,’ and I count
the words ‘infamy’ and ‘infamous’ fourteen times on one page. _Il
Dovere_, a Radical sheet, hurls every awful adjective in the Italian
language at the Conservative party, and finishes up with a fit of
violent hysterics. The _Gazette Ticinese_ can find no heading to its
fierce wrath at the result of Sunday’s election, and so contents itself
with an inarticulate ‘!?!’ while another journal declares the vote to be
valueless, and writes in huge letters that the Conservative majority is
an iniquity, and cries aloud in mighty wrath that 12,066 Liberals return
only 35 Deputies to the Grand Council, while 12,833 Ultramontanes return
77. Both sides call each other assassins, and both sides call each other
thieves, and the Conservative journals always speak of the Liberals as
‘the party of brigands,’ and it is evident that in Ticino a Republican
form of government has not been productive of liberty or equality, and
most decidedly not of fraternity.

The placards on the walls are all couched in fiery language, with the
exception of Colonel Kunzli’s proclamation, which simply forbids any
public meeting to be held in any place in Ticino. ‘Proibisco ogni
assemblia populare in tutto il Cantone Ticino.’ (What do you think of
that in a Republic, my Trafalgar Square friends?) The Liberal addresses
al Popolo Ticinese denounce the Conservatives as ruffians, liars,
slanderers, thieves, and oppressors; and a proclamation which is posted
up all over the walls of Bellinzona itself, within a few feet of the
Government House, and signed by ‘The Liberal Committee _in Milan_,’
calls upon the people to drive out a Government which for years has
tyrannized over the country and been guilty of intolerance,
assassination, the liberation of the guilty, the condemnation of the
innocent, persecution, swindling, extortion, robbery, ‘and all possible
subdivisions of these and other iniquities.’ I have never read as much
strong language in my whole life as I have been compelled to peruse
during the last fortnight in Ticino.

To-day (Wednesday) we have had another ‘incident’ in Lugano. This
morning a great hulking fellow told a little boy of twelve to go and
insult the sentries on duty at the Municipio. The lad, nothing loath,
trotted off and called the sentries all the bad names he knew. One
sentry ordered him off. The boy, encouraged by some roughs, refused to
go, whereupon the sentry, like an idiot, prodded him playfully in the
arm with his bayonet.

Soldiers and populace alike seem to have lost their heads, and now are
thirsting for each other’s gore. A man in a café told me that if it went
on they would fire at the soldiers from the windows. Good business this.
O Liberty! Liberty! what crimes, etc.

That the military fear a rising is certain. When the train came in from
Milan on Tuesday a guard of soldiers with fixed bayonets was posted at
every entrance. A number of agitators from Milan were expected to come
to the aid of the Luganese. ‘My God!’ exclaimed the station-master, when
I asked him what the armed force at the station meant, ‘one would think
we were all murderers here.’

The Lucerne and Berne soldiers will be heartily glad to get back home.
They have been badly treated in Ticino, where, although Swiss, and the
real Swiss, they are looked upon as foreigners. The arrangements made
for their accommodation have not increased the pleasure of their stay.
Some of them have had to sleep and live in a church, lying down at night
on straw spread about on the floor. The accommodation provided for the
others is even worse, being at a disused seminary, where they have
absolutely had no water-supply at all, and have had to go down to the
lake to wash.

Let us turn from the revolution to more pleasant matters. To-day is
market-day in Lugano. The greatest crowd is round a man who is
displaying on a pole an enormous and highly-coloured picture of a man
dripping with blood, who is stabbing a very _décolletée_ lady in blue
silk. The banner is labelled in huge letters, ‘Jack, l’Assassino di
Londra! Lo Sventratore di Donne!’ The man is doing a roaring trade in a
penny book which is no less than the life and adventures of our old
friend Jack the Ripper.

The country people who have come from the mountains and the valleys are
positively trampling each other down in their eagerness to purchase
copies, and presently the vendor raises his price from a penny to
twopence. What a reputation has Jack made for himself! All over the
world he is famous. Gladstone is not in the same street with him as a
European celebrity. Such is fame!

The women of Ticino are surely the hardest worked women in the world. In
the lower classes they are simply beasts of burden. The little girl of
twelve and the old woman of eighty carry huge loads everywhere, while
the boys and the men carry nothing. I meet old women toiling up the
great mountains with huge baskets on their backs. In these baskets they
carry not only goods, but animals. I have seen a woman toiling along
with a big calf in the basket on her back and a great bundle of faggots
under her arm. In the town it is the same. All the heavy porterage is
done by the women. At one of the steamboat piers yesterday it was a
woman who came for the luggage, and she positively reeled under the
weight of a Saratoga trunk, while the men sat with their hands in their
pockets and smoked cigars.

From this same steamer there landed a couple of men of the peasant
class. Their wives, with baskets on their backs, were waiting for them.
The men had a number of packages with them. These they instantly loaded
on to their wives, and then, lighting their cigars, strolled off up the
mountain path that led to their village. And behind them at a long
distance, heavily laden, toiled their beasts of burden--their wives.



CHAPTER XIX.

LOCARNO.


From Bellinzona a local train conveys the traveller to Locarno, which is
a small town at the extreme head of Lake Maggiore. I had heard a
wonderful account of Locarno, and had been assured that in its perfect
peace and pure air the malady from which I was suffering would rapidly
disappear. I arrived at Locarno full of hope. I also arrived in a heavy
storm of rain. I looked around me, and I saw nothing but water and mist
and mud. The mountains were wrapped in black cloaks of cloud. The walls
of the houses were covered with moss and mushrooms and toadstools, and
in the roadways the bulrushes grew several feet high.

On the way to the hotel we passed a few shops. Every shop seems to deal
in the same article--umbrellas, green umbrellas and red umbrellas. They
hung in rows along the walls of the town; they were piled high in the
shop-windows; every man, woman, and child carried one, and still the
rain came down upon the desolate scene.

There is no mistake about the dampness of Locarno when it is damp. It is
owing to the enormous amount of moisture which Locarno gets in
combination with the full glare of an Italian sun that it boasts unique
phenomena in the way of vegetation. You find the southern and the
Alpine plant in absolute juxtaposition. At one moment your eye is
dazzled by the full glory of a tropical garden; at the next you are
gazing at peat bogs and into moist green hollows crowded with the sedges
of the moors. Let me be fair to Locarno, for it has been fair to me. A
fairer place (when it doesn’t rain) it would be almost impossible to
find. From the sunny shores of the glorious lake the mighty mountains
rise, with soft green skirts of vine and caps of snow. In a hundred
gardens the red and white azalea, the camellia, and the wisteria make
great clusters of colour. Gaily painted villas, fair white spires, and
picturesque villages dot the heights, and over all there floats a balmy
southern breeze that bears upon its gentle wings the perfume of a
hundred flowers.

Before we left Locarno we explored the beauties of the neighbourhood,
and we started with climbing a mountain. One glorious mountain walk we
had which will linger in my memory until the last guard blows his
whistle, and I start for a country to which as yet neither Murray nor
Bradshaw nor Baedeker has published a guide. We started from Locarno for
Mergoscia, ascending the mountains by the path that leads to the Madonna
del Sasso (Our Lady of the Rock). One starlit night in 1480 a monk
kneeling in prayer looked up the mountain. Suddenly a glorious sea of
light bathed the rocky peak that rises above the town, and the Virgin
was seen surrounded by adoring angels. The monk interpreted his vision
as a wish of Heaven that on this rocky mount a chapel should be built.
The money was raised, and to-day Our Lady of the Rock, far above the
town of Locarno, is one of the famous sights of Switzerland.

It is a toilsome journey up the mountain-side and past the countless
shrines to the church, but the traveller is rewarded with many a quaint
sight by the way for his pains. The old-world peasant population was
probably gratified by the realism of some of the groups which are placed
here and there up the hill like small waxwork exhibitions. You come to a
kind of stone grotto; you peer in through the iron bars, and you start
back astonished. You are looking into a stable, with real straw and real
stalls, and in a manger you see the infant Saviour lying, and the Holy
Family grouped around him. A couple of donkeys are peering into the
manger, and nothing is spared that contributes to the almost sensational
realism of the scene. A little farther up you peep into another cave,
and you see a number of figures sitting at a long table laid with plates
and glasses. In front of each figure is a small roll, and a waiter is
just coming into the room with a big fish on a plate. You gradually
recognise the fact that you are assisting at the Lord’s Supper, and you
turn almost with a sigh to think that a beautiful faith ever needed such
coarse theatrical adjuncts to impress it on the minds of the populace.

Our Lady of the Rock is much resorted to by people in pain and
affliction, and the naves of the church are lined with curious _ex
votos_. No chamber of horrors ever contained a more terrible series of
accidents than these pictures represent. Here is a little boy under a
carriage wheel, rescued just as the wheel is on his chest. Here is a man
falling from a bridge into a river, and just caught by the leg as he is
going head first into the water. Here is a woman hurled over a
precipice, and caught by the branch of a tree. In one terrible picture a
man’s nose is being blown off by his own gun; in another, a gentleman is
accidentally mowing his own legs off with a scythe. It is a great
relief, after gazing at these pictorial horrors, in which the blood is
always laid on thick by the artist, to get out into the open air again,
and climb higher up the hill to the narrow path that leads to the Alpine
village of Orselina.

Through Orselina we pass over the spur of the mountain to Contra,
another village which is perched up higher still. These Alpine villages
look beautifully picturesque from the valley below, but they are sad and
grim enough when you are in them. All the poetry is gone when you wind
in and out through the little tortuous street and see the squalor and
the poverty in which the people live. The rough stone walls look so
forbidding; the rooms seen through the battered doors look so black and
cheerless as the smoke of the wood fire curls slowly out of them. All
the poetry is going as you peer into them, and there is no poetry at all
left when you have seen the inhabitants. Old men toil painfully along
with trembling hands; women, bent almost double beneath the burthen they
bear on their backs, pass you with sad faces and dull eyes. The women in
these Alpine villages do the work of animals. They are really beasts of
burden. They are loaded as in our country we load carts and barrows. I
have seen an old woman toiling up a hill with a great wicker basket on
her back in which were two calves and a pig. The basket the women have
perpetually strapped to their back is called a _gerlo_, and is made to
contain anything, from an elephant to a packet of pins.

Half the houses in these Alpine villages are deserted, as are many of
the houses lower down in the valleys. Only the old men and the women and
children seem to be left in the others. The reason of this is not far to
seek. The Ticinese have been the great emigrating race of Switzerland.
The men of the hills and valleys are scattered over the world, and most
of them have climbed the hill of fortune. Some of them have reached the
summit. From a village near Locarno, which is now full of houses barred
and bolted and falling into decay, have gone forth some of the richest
men in California. In that far-off land the owners of these houses made
a fortune by their industry, and then their fellow-villagers, hearing of
it, set out to try and do the same.

Everywhere as one wanders over this part of Switzerland one finds that
the manhood is gone. The Ticinese are far away in Italy, in France, in
England, in America, and everywhere their industry, their business
talents, and their thrift have carried them triumphantly to affluence.

But though he is far away the man of Ticino does not forget his old
home, or his poorer brethren left there. From over the seas every year
comes the emigrant’s gold for the village poor, and for the Church, and
for every good object that can be thought of.

The finest peal of bells in Ticino is the gift of a man of the valley of
Maggia, who is far away in California. On one of the bells is this
inscription:

    ‘Anche attraverso sterminati mari,
     Degli Svizzeri il cor vola a’suoi cari,’

which, being translated, reads:

    ‘Though doomed beyond the boundless seas to roam,
     The Switzer ne’er forgets his childhood’s home.’

The fortune of the Ticinese emigrants now settled in California alone is
estimated at nearly two millions, and from one valley in Ticino, the
Vallemaggia, there are forty men who went out from a little cottage such
as I have described, and who could now any one of them buy up almost the
entire district. Splendid emigrants are these brave, determined
fellows--emigrants who benefit not only themselves, but the lands to
which they go, and who never, as they climb the rungs of Fortune’s
ladder, and build up new homes and new associations in the land of
their adoption, forget the dear old home, or those less fortunate
companions who still remain there.

I have interrupted my walk to say something about Swiss emigration, but
it is a subject that must force itself upon you in whichever way you
turn in this portion of Switzerland. Emigration is writ large in every
valley. It accounts for much that you see which otherwise would be
inexplicable. The subject was forced upon me when I came to Contra and
saw the empty village homes of the rich men far away.

I don’t mind confessing to you that after leaving Contra I grew a little
nervous. Blondin used to get £100 a time for walking on the tight-rope.
I got nothing for walking from Contra to Mergoscia, but there were times
when I should have preferred Mr. Blondin’s job, even if in addition to
performing gratis I had had to pay for the rope and the pole out of my
own pocket. Just after leaving Contra the road crosses a most fearful
abyss. Down thousands of feet below you dashes a mad, roaring torrent.
You clutch the side of the frail mountain bridge, and you peer over into
the yawning jaws of death below. I have seen some grand sights, but
never before have I seen anything so sublime in its grandeur as that
wild rocky scene, the far-stretching vale, the roaring torrent in the
gorge below.

We crept over that bridge on tiptoe. We neither of us spoke a word. The
scene was too grand for words. We were both awestruck, and both just a
little nervous, for after crossing the bridge the road became more awful
still.

It certainly was a terrible feat we were about to attempt, but I had set
out to go to Mergoscia, and I didn’t want to be beaten. We had been told
that, owing to a portion of the path having been carried down into the
abyss by a landslip, the road was not very good, but we had never
imagined it was so awful as it now appeared to us. The road absolutely
led across the face of a perpendicular rock! To look down below was to
turn sick, and there wasn’t even the pretence of a wall on the outside
edge of the path! It was barely wide enough to creep over, walking one
foot in front of the other, and the rock above jutted out at places so
that you were forced nearer the edge.

It was at this point that the road had recently broken away. While we
were standing and hesitating before we stepped upon the ledge, a lad
came up behind whistling, and with his hands in his pockets stepped
boldly upon the broken path, skipped over some bits of rock which had
fallen upon it, and was presently safe round the terrible jut and on the
broader and sounder pathway that led direct to Mergoscia.

That was enough for us. Steadying ourselves and clenching our teeth, we
stepped forward. It was a very bad minute as we nervously crossed the
jut. We dared not look down the face of the rock, or think what lay
below us. But we arrived safely on the other side, and then we paused to
take breath, and we confessed to each other that we wouldn’t do it again
for a thousand pounds.

The village of Mergoscia stands at a dizzy height on the side of a sheer
precipice. Looking back at the road by which we had reached it, it
seemed impossible that anyone but an acrobat could traverse it. It was
afterwards explained to us that the road was about to be repaired, that
half of it had recently fallen away, and that while it was in its
present condition the general way of approaching Mergoscia was from the
opposite side of the gorge. That night, after I fell asleep, that awful
path to Mergoscia came back to me in my dreams, and I woke up just as I
was falling into the abyss below. The walk is described in a guide-book
as ‘one of the most sublimely grand and romantic on the Alps.’ Romantic
it certainly was, but besides the romance there was just a little too
much reality about it to make it an unmixed pleasure.

There is a town on Lake Maggiore where all the cooks come from. It is
called Brisago. The first person Columbus met when he discovered America
was a cook from Brisago, which brings me to another of Albert Edward’s
jokes. He was talking to Lord Mayor Monico and the Right Hon. S. Gatti
at Dongio, and he said: ‘Ah, if William Tell had been a Ticinese, do you
know what he would have done with the apple after he had shot it?’ ‘No,’
said Lord Mayor Monico, ‘I don’t.’ ‘He would have made it into an apple
dumpling, and opened a restaurant with it,’ replied A. E. And everybody
laughed so heartily that several avalanches fell in the neighbourhood.

There is one thing which cannot fail to strike the close observer of
Swiss contemporary history, and that is the extraordinary contempt which
the rival political parties have for each other. The Radical and the
Conservative members of the Council never associate in private or in
public life. They won’t even sit at the same café, they won’t put up at
the same hotel, they won’t walk on the same side of the street.

And oh, the dreadful things they say of each other! The Conservatives
assure me that the Radicals would not hesitate to set fire to
Switzerland, or to blow it up with dynamite upon the slightest
provocation. The Radicals tell me that the Conservatives are ruining the
country; that they want to make the people slaves, and divide
Switzerland among themselves. It is a sight to see a Radical and a
Conservative meet accidentally. The scowl is a thing to remember for a
lifetime. You can almost see them arch their backs at each other like
rival tomcats, and you are quite astonished when they don’t spit. There
is no place in the world where political antagonism becomes such real
and personal antagonism as in the land of the gentleman who immortalized
the apple trick.

One fine day we went over on a specially-conducted expedition to the Val
Gatti--the beautiful and romantic valley, some four or five miles from
Biasca, from which the celebrated brothers came forth many years ago to
conquer London. Our expedition was almost a royal progress. In
Bellinzona we were entertained by Mr. Stephen, M.P. for Switzerland, at
a sumptuous breakfast, at the fifteenth course of which Albert Edward
broke down, and shed tears because he couldn’t eat any more; then we all
adjourned to the Presidential Palace, where we had cigars with the
Government; and then it came on to thunder and to lighten and to hail,
and presently--note this, for it is a remarkable fact--it became so
pitch dark that we had to light lamps in order to see each other--and
this was between twelve and one o’clock in the day. When in glorious
Switzerland in the middle of May I saw the gas and the lamps and the
candles alight in all the shops and houses at noon, I felt that I owed
some slight apology to London for the unkind things I have sometimes
said about it.

By one o’clock, however, the storm was over and gone, and the sun shone
out, and then we took train for Biasca. At Biasca we alighted, and found
a carriage and four horses, and postilions in magnificent uniforms,
waiting to take us over the marvellous four miles of mountain road that
lead to Dongio, the beautiful spot in the Val de Blenio in which the
Palazzo Gatti is situated.

It is impossible for me to describe that drive. My adjectives would not
hold out, and my neck is still aching with the twisting I gave it while
endeavouring to gaze up at the kaiser crags and monarch mountains that
stand like solemn sentinels guarding the glorious Gatti valley. The
drive was spirit-stirring and sublime, and the face of Stephen, M.P.,
positively beamed as he saw how much we were impressed with the glory of
his mountain home. We only had one or two trifling accidents by the way.
Once the postilions took a road that the M.P. didn’t wish them to go
‘for fear of our nerves,’ and, in endeavouring to turn round on a wooden
bridge across a torrent, they came so near landing us all upside down
that the author of a hundred melodramas jumped out for his life.
Unfortunately, he hopped out of the frying pan into the fire. Our
carriage righted itself; but he jumped badly, and fell on his nose, and
his hat went over into the roaring torrent, and the big waves banged it
merrily against the rocks, and the last he saw of it it was going down
the valley at the rate of fifty miles an hour.

Avalanches fall occasionally in the Val Gatti, and sides of mountains
come down without being invited to do so by the inhabitants. I must
confess that every now and then, as we dashed along a narrow road, with
a yawning abyss below us and about a couple of billion tons of
overhanging rock above us, and it began to look like thunderstorms on
the weather quarter, I began to think that an Alpine life has its bad
quarters of an hour. But we arrived safely at last at Dongio, and, when
we reined our reeking steeds up in front of the Palazzo Gatti, and a
deputation of Dongio maidens came and presented us with bouquets of
mountain flowers, we felt that we had not risked our precious lives in
vain.

In front of the Palazzo Gatti the Tree of Liberty is planted in honour
of Mr. Stephen, M.P. for the Valley. From the tree float flags and
emblems and ribbons. It is by this tree that you know you are on the
domain of a patrician, a citizen of renown. There are plenty of
beautiful houses scattered about the valley, and any amount near Dongio.
‘English,’ says the Dongio M.P., and you gather at once what he means.
The owners are of the London-Swiss division. The names of most of the
grandees of the valley sound familiar to a Londoner’s ear. The mayor of
Dongio, who gives us a right hearty welcome, is Signor Monico. I fancy
I’ve heard that name in Piccadilly. Our host at Aqua Rossa, a health
station higher up the valley, is Signor Gianella. I think that name is
to be found in London day by day. Whenever I say to the M.P., ‘Whose
palazzo is that?’ he mentions a name that is familiar to my cockney
ears. One pretty villa, standing a little way out of the village,
specially attracts my attention. ‘Whose house is that?’ I say. ‘That,’
replies the M.P., ‘is the house of our manager at the Gallery.’ I
uncover my head and bow to the residence. Without knowing it, I have
been leaning over the garden wall of the Palazzo Gallizia!

From Dongio we drove to Aqua Rossa. As we pass every hat in the village
flies off, and all the old ladies drop curtsies. Mr. Stephen is a great
man in these parts, and our progress is a triumphal one. While our host
has gone into a house to pay a call we converse with our driver. We ask
him, through Albert Edward, who speaks Italian as his mother tongue,
many little questions, and he is filled with admiration and reverence
for the great men of the valley who live far away in London. He assures
us that the whole valley belongs to the Gattis, and that he thinks all
the mountains do too. He isn’t quite sure if they have any more valleys
anywhere else, but they could have if they liked. We asked him if he
has heard that the Gattis are going to buy up Switzerland, and turn it
into a public company. He thinks a minute, and says, No; he has not
heard that, but he thinks they have something to do with the big hotel
at Aqua Rossa, where, right in the heart of the mountains, there are to
be the electric light and the telephone, and your hair is to be brushed
by machinery.

We go up the valley to the hotel at Aqua Rossa, which is being enlarged.
The ‘Red Water,’ from which the Grande Stabilmento Balneario takes its
name, is a marvellous cure for dyspepsia, skin diseases, bronchitis,
etc. The situation of the hotel is magnificent. Five miles up the
valley, far from the busy hum of men, you can look from your window over
a glorious panorama of mountain and vale. The air is exhilarating as
champagne, and there is no next-morning headache in it. At the hotel you
can have the baths and the treatment, the electric light, and perfect
peace, and the pension is only 8fr. a day. I have taken a room for the
season there myself, and the entire staff have guaranteed that after a
fortnight’s treatment I shall never know a pang of dyspepsia again. Ye
gods, what an angel I shall return to my native shores if it comes off!

The shades of night were falling fast ere we left the hospitable homes
of the Val Gatti. Our drive back to Biasca in the darkness made us sit
tight and clutch each other, and think now and then that we might have
been better men had we tried; but we skirted the torrents and dodged the
avalanches all right, and we were no sooner in the train than we all
fell fast asleep, overcome with fatigue and the mountain air, and we
should probably have slept and been taken on to Calais or Milan or
Timbuctoo if Albert Edward had not snored so violently as to alarm the
engine-driver and to cause him to pull up and hold a hurried
conversation with the guard. They both listened, and felt certain that
some terrible convulsion of nature was taking place in the mountains.
They came to the carriages and begged the passengers to alight. ‘We fear
an earthquake or a landslip,’ they said. ‘This thunderous roaring
betokens mischief.’ But when they came to our carriage and found the
great convulsion of nature was only Albert Edward snoring, they woke us
up and apologized to the other passengers, and we resumed our journey.
And so ended one of the most remarkable journeys it has ever been my lot
to perform.



CHAPTER XX.

BERLIN EN PASSANT.


Snow! Last night the moon shone with a steel-blue light in the cloudless
heavens, and the sentinel stars stood out clear and bright, as on a
frosty winter’s evening. Never had I seen Berlin look more beautiful.
Long after the good citizens had retired to their homes, I lingered
under the lime-trees and gave myself up to the enchantment of the scene.
It was five-and-twenty years almost to the day since I had set foot
within the Prussian capital, and old memories crowded about me as I was
lost in reverie. It was not until I turned my steps homeward that I
found out how bitterly cold it was. I had not had time to think about
the weather, or to remember what season of the year it was. But, walking
home, it suddenly occurred to me that it was the merry month of May, and
that in a few weeks it would be June. In Berlin it might have been a
good old-fashioned Christmas Eve.

And to-day it is snowing--snowing in a way not to be mistaken. There is
no half-hearted business about this snow. It doesn’t change to rain just
as it falls, like a snow that is ashamed of itself and endeavours to
conceal its true character. Down it comes in flakes the size of shilling
pieces, and the wayfarers’ umbrellas are as white as their noses are red
and their lips are blue.

Only forty-eight hours before, as I stepped gaily into the train at
Victoria on the day of the Two Thousand Guineas, I said jokingly, ‘When
I travel I like to see Snow.’ But I didn’t mean the snow that fell upon
me so unmercifully in Berlin. I meant the excellent Mr. Snow, who,
promoted from the Club train to the management of the Sleeping Car
Company’s London office, still devotes himself to the comfort of
Continental travellers, and makes the way pleasant before them. I had
reason to be grateful to this most seasonable Snow. Not only did he take
the trouble to send me the winner of the Two Thousand to Dover, but when
I arrived at Calais I found that he had ordered by telegraph an
excellent dinner for me at the buffet, and had reserved me a compartment
in the Cologne express, for all of which I felt exceedingly grateful.
The snow that awaited me at Berlin was not nearly so agreeable. Still,
as it is over, and the sun once more asserts its rights in the heavens,
we may as well take the unseasonable downfall as a little practical joke
on the part of the clerk of the weather, and say no more about it.

The sleeping cars which run between Calais and Cologne in connection
with the Club train are excellent, but as I didn’t go to sleep until
midnight, and had to turn out at half-past two fully dressed at the
frontier and fit obstinate keys into troublesome locks, and then had to
undress again with the pleasant knowledge that at five a.m. I should be
turned out at Cologne, I can’t say that, taken as a whole, my night’s
rest was all that a selfish man could wish for himself. At half-past
five, however, I had some excellent coffee at the Cologne buffet, and
then went into the cathedral and assisted at a most interesting
ceremony, in which a bishop was taking the leading part. I stayed in the
cathedral till seven, and at twenty minutes to eight I found one of the
nicest trains I ever saw in my life waiting to take me on to Berlin. It
wasn’t a special train of luxury due to private enterprise, with a
premium of fifty or seventy-five per cent. to pay for the privilege of
sitting in it, but a train provided by the Government for ordinary first
and second class passengers.

A polite conductor, having inspected my ticket, begged me to do him the
honour of seating myself, and ushered me into a comfortable compartment
containing four easy-chairs and a small dining-table. At the same time
he handed me a card containing a map of the route, the time of arrival
at each station, and a list of various hot and cold delicacies and
refreshing beverages which could be served _en route_ to the traveller.
The prices attached were most moderate. For instance, feeling hungry
about eleven o’clock (remember, I breakfasted soon after five), I
touched an electric bell, and instantly a waiter appeared bowing and
smiling in front of my easy-chair. I ordered a beefsteak and potatoes
and a bottle of Mosel wine. The steak was tenderness itself, and the
potatoes were excellent. For this repast, including bread, butter, and
cheese, I paid, according to the tariff, 1s. 6d., and the bottle of wine
was 2s. Everything on the bill was as moderately priced. For instance, a
plate of soup and bread is 4d.; a plate of cold meat, with the usual
etceteras, 1s.; half a cold chicken and bread, 1s. 6d. The ‘drinks’ are
quite as reasonable. A bottle of seltzer is 3d.; a lemonade, 3d.; a
bottle of beer, 3d.; and the wines are proportionately cheap. When you
think of these prices you must also remember that the entire train is on
the corridor system, and is luxuriously fitted up in first and second
class sitting-rooms, with every convenience for the toilet, and that
there is a large staff of attendants. Whatever faults the German
Government may have, it has made express railway travelling the comfort
of the many instead of the luxury of the few.

In Berlin, when you arrive at a railway-station, an official gives you a
huge brass plate with a number of a cab on it, and you can’t have a cab
without you have the brass plate. It is an excellent idea if you can get
a porter to carry the plate; if you can’t, it takes less out of you to
walk to your destination.

Berlin cabs are first-class and second-class. The first-class cab is one
in which the united ages of the driver, the horse, and the cab are under
one hundred years. As soon as they are more than that they become second
class.

Berlin is, I should fancy, now the cleanest and the best-lighted city in
Europe. After months of darkest London, brightest Berlin is a distinct
relief to me. From end to end in every street and in every shop it is a
blaze of electric light and clean white colour.

I went to the steeplechases at Charlottenburg, where a few days
previously our well-known gentleman rider, Mr. ‘Charley Thompson,’ had
captured the hearts of the Berliners by his plucky riding in the race
for the gold cup, which he won after being thrown heavily and having a
can-can performed upon his chest by his horse. Berlin racing is a calm
and serious affair. The officers (in uniform) ride their own horses, and
all the soldiers on the course come to attention and salute as they pass
by. No bookmakers are allowed, and you have to pay ten marks for a
special ticket before you can even back a horse at the ‘totalizer.’ The
object of this is to make it impossible for the working classes to
gamble, and it is highly effective.

At one time anybody could patronize the Pari-Mutuel, but the working
classes lost their money and then kicked up a row about it, and said
they were ruined. The Kaiser heard of it, and stopped all racing at
once. But after about six weeks he cooled down and gave permission for
racing to be resumed again under certain conditions. The ten marks
admission to the Pari-Mutuel enclosure is one of them. It is thus that a
paternal Government protects the earnings of its workmen. With a view
also of keeping the working classes from the racecourse, no racing is
now permitted on Sunday. This is ‘all on account of the ‘Lizer'--the
totalizer.

Kaiser Wilhelm, in spite of his eccentricities, which the Germans freely
acknowledge, is undoubtedly immensely popular with his people. He is a
German of Germans, and the Germany-for-the-Germans feeling was never so
strong as it is at present. Our national motto is ‘Made in Germany,’ but
the Vaterland does not return the compliment. ‘Made in England’ is not a
common object of the seashore in the Kaiser’s dominions.

They tell many amusing stories in Berlin of the strength of the
‘national’ feeling. When Queen Victoria sent the Kaiser’s baby-boy a
pair of shoes, knitted with her own royal and great-grandmotherly hands,
the Emperor shook his head and laid them aside. ‘A German prince,’ he
said, ‘must wear German shoes.’ And the baby’s little feet were at once
duly encased in the home-made article.

I was in a blissful condition of lazy don’t-careism, enjoying myself in
my own way, lounging in the sunshine (it turned suddenly warm after that
snowstorm) ‘unter den Linden,’ sitting outside the confectioner’s eating
ices, smoking cigarettes, and drinking chocolate, when in an evil hour I
came suddenly upon an old German friend, who has been long a resident in
Berlin. He insisted at once upon being my guide, philosopher, and
friend. He said that he would ‘take me about’ and show me everything.
He has kept his word, and I have had to telegraph home for new boots.

I remember an old song which was in years gone by a great favourite with
Italian prime donne during the London opera season. They used to take it
as an encore in the middle of various centuries and under every variety
of surrounding circumstances. I think it was called ‘Home, Sweet Home.’
There was a passage in it which, as far as I could gather from the
singers’ accent and ‘variations,’ ran somewhat after this fashion:

    ‘Through places and palaces though I may roam,
     Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.’

Since my friend swooped down on me I have been roaming through nothing
but places and palaces--especially palaces. Last Sunday, although I was
dog tired, he banged at my bedroom-door at the unearthly hour of nine,
and bore me off breakfastless to Potsdam and palaced me to such an
extent that the sight of an ordinary middle-class dwelling would have
been a positive relief.

He conducted me through Babelsburg, the charming summer palace of old
Kaiser Wilhelm; he took me all over the Marble Palace, in which the
Crown Princes of Prussia reside as soon as they are old enough; and he
made me visit every nook and corner of Sans Souci, and gave off the life
of Frederick the Great in chapters--a chapter in each room. I have
always respected the memory of Frederick the Great because he was so
kind to his dogs, and buried them in the palace grounds and put up
stones to their memory. For that I long ago forgave him for playing the
flute and painting ladies with two right feet and other anatomical
eccentricities; but after three hours of Sans Souci I began to resent
Frederick the Great as a personal injustice, and I wasn’t in the least
sympathetic when my friend explained to me that the great man was a
martyr to the gout and suffered terribly with his nerves.

I was trotted over more Potsdam palaces after Sans Souci, and was
graciously admitted to the private apartments of the imperial family,
not usually shown to strangers. At any other time I should have felt
flattered, but so thoroughly worn out was I that even the sight of the
imperial nursery and the imperial clothes-horse, on which the imperial
baby-linen is dried in front of the imperial fire, failed to put me in a
good temper; and at last, as my friend was dragging me up the steps of
another palace to show me a room in which everything was solid silver, I
turned round and fled, and never halted until I had jumped into a train
that was starting for Berlin, where I arrived just in time to put on a
pair of carpet-slippers, and in these I had to rush off to Kroll’s
Theatre to see ‘Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor’ ('The Merry Wives of
Windsor'), as the performance commenced at the unearthly hour of seven.
I have gone through a great deal in my time, but I never expected to
have to go through six palaces in one day. After that you will easily
understand how the words of the poet who preferred his humble home to
roaming through palaces came home to me.



CHAPTER XXI.

PRAGUE.


When a man wakes up in the morning and can’t quite make out where he is,
and the first thing that catches his eyes as they wander inquiringly
round an unfamiliar bedroom is an electric bell, and underneath it these
words:

    ‘Na sklepnika, rate 1 nou;
     Na panskou, rate 2 kráte;
     Na poshluhu, rate 3 kráte;’

he may fairly be excused if he feels like a stranger in a strange land.
It will probably dawn upon him that somewhere amid these printed
specimens of an unknown tongue there is lurking a request that if he
wants the waiter he will ring once; that if he requires the chambermaid
he will ring twice; and that if he needs the services of the boots he
will ring thrice. This is what gradually shaped itself in my mind when I
woke up the other morning in Prague, and found myself face to face with
the Bohemian or Czechish language.

My earliest recollections of Prague are associated with a piece of
well-thumbed music which used to lie about on a piano, and was something
to do with a battle. Later on it cropped up occasionally in the
schoolroom in connection with a gentleman named Huss, who got into
trouble early in the Fourteens; but the world-famous old town fairly
burnt itself into my memory in the now almost forgotten lines of poor
Prowse, ‘Nicholas’ of _Fun_:

    ‘The longitude’s rather uncertain,
     The latitude’s equally vague;
     But that person I pity who knows not the city,
     The beautiful city of Prague.’

It was not of the Bohemia over which Francis Josef reigns to-day that
the young poet sang, but of that vaster Bohemia which in years gone by
was the happy land of the children of art, of letters, and of song. ‘La
Vie de Bohème’ exists no more. The old Bohemians have turned their backs
upon their tents, and live in stucco villas. They have crushed the clay
pipe under the heels of their patent-leather boots, and taken to
cigarettes. They have ceased to herd together in the bonds of
brotherhood; they go into Society and eye each other superciliously when
they get crushed together on the staircases of the nobility.

But, though the old rhyme has lost its reason, it was the one that came
back to me first when I found myself in the real Prague of the true
Bohemians. These Bohemians, too, have their song, though I doubt if
that, too, has not grown old and a little out of fashion. The old
national ditty, _Kde domof mug_, began something like this:

    ‘Where is my house--where is my home?
     Streams among the meadows creeping,
     Brooks from rock to rock are leaping;
     Everywhere bloom spring and flowers
     Within this paradise of ours;
     There--‘tis there, the beauteous land,
     Bohemia, my fatherland!’

A beauteous land it undoubtedly is, but the language has peculiarities
which are not calculated to make it grateful and comforting to the
traveller who has to take it on after he is past his first youth.

When I arose and donned my clothes and oped my chamber-door in Prague to
let in the ‘sklepnik’ with my coffee and _brödchen_, I had just two days
to learn the language, see everything, and be off to Vienna. So,
although my sklepnik was busy and the bells were ringing for him all
over the house, I held on to him and insisted upon him giving me a short
lesson in Czechish. But when I found that even his own name when you
call him is not the same name as when you speak of him, and that he
became in the course of five minutes’ conversation sklepnick,
sklepnickee, sklepnicka, sklepniko, etc., I let him go and take other
people their breakfast, and got on with mine.

My panskou was so good-looking that I had serious thoughts of writing a
song in her honour, entitled ‘The Prettiest Panskou in Prague,’ and
getting somebody to put it into Czechish, that I might send it to her
anonymously next Valentine’s Day; but I heard that she was engaged to be
married to the poshluhu on the third-floor, and so another example was
added to my famous collection of ‘Songs without Words.’

Before I went out to see the sights of Prague I gave myself just a few
minutes further private instruction in the language of the land, and sat
down with a dictionary and a pipe in front of the printed notice in my
bedroom. This time I selected for study the following startling passage:
‘Racte pouzy ucty kancelári stvrzone vyplácenti! Pokrmy a napoje v
jidelne oderbrane buatez tamtez zaplaceny.’ I worried at it with my
German Czechish dictionary until I felt that if there was any insanity
in my family history I should develop the latent Deemingism in my
system, and possibly bury the sklepnik, the panskou, and the poshluhu
under the same cement; and then I sent for my guide. My guide was a
Bohemian who acquired English early in the sixties in the goldfields of
California. He has lost a good deal of it since. ‘Honyrabble zir!’ he
said, ‘dat mean, your honour. Dat vat you eats and drinks underneath ze
stairs pays for itself dere at ze times, honyrabble zir.’ After a few
minutes of serious reflection, I solved this further problem: Racte
pouzy ucty kancelári, etc., meant that all meals taken in the restaurant
should be paid for at the time, and not put on the bill.

When you have sufficiently admired Prague itself, and recognised the
fact that it is ‘picturesquely situated on the banks of the Moldau’
(vide guide-books), the first thing you do is to explore the venerable
Hradshin, or Capitol. High on the Hradshin Hill stands the Archbishop’s
Palace, the Schwarzenberg Palace, and the palace of the Emperor, and the
famous cathedral dedicated to St. Vitus. On the hottest day of this
present May, with thunder threatening and never a breath of air blowing,
did I pant through palaces and crawl around cathedrals with the
Californian-Bohemian. Many were the wonders that he showed me, and at
least a hundred times that day did he call me ‘honyrabble zir.’ At last
I became so worn out that it was almost with relief that I saw him
suddenly slip up on a stone and turn his ankle. I am afraid he was in
great pain; but his ardour and his pace were alike moderated after that,
and I was saved from an apoplectic stroke following on over-exertion on
a blazing hot day. After the accident, I offered him one arm and hired a
native to give another; and between us we led him slowly around the
Hradshin, and I allowed him to explain as much as I wanted to know, and
then bore him away in triumph to something else. While he was a free
agent his lectures were interminable, and he kept me for three-quarters
of an hour looking at a brick wall in St. Vitus’s because a Jew boy had
been buried behind it some centuries previously.

There are two legends, or perhaps I should say historical facts, which
follow you all over Prague--the story of St. John of Nepomuk and the
story of Slavata and Martinitz. From the moment you land in Prague to
the moment you leave it the names of these three gentlemen are dinned
into your ears with damnable iteration. I happened to be in Prague on
the eve of the great annual fête of St. John of Nepomuk, and so I had an
extra dose of him.

Of course you know the story of the patron saint of Bohemia. You
remember that Johanko von Nepomuk was a great preacher in Prague in the
fourteenth century. He became almoner to King Wenzel or Venzeslaus IV.,
the great German Emperor, and King of Bohemia, and confessor to the
Queen. The Queen soon afterwards began to look depressed, and tears were
often in her eyes. King Wenzel was annoyed. ‘Charlotte,’ he said, ‘why
are you always in the blues? It gives me the hump. Cheer up, old lady,
or tell me what is the matter.’ The Queen only shook her head and
sniffed. Then Wenzel swore several oaths of the period, and went off to
the Rev. Mr. Johanko von Nepomuk and said to him, ‘Look here, your
reverence, the Queen confesses to you, so you know what is the matter
with her, and why she is always snivelling and howling!’ (He was a
brutal fellow was Wenzel, and very coarse in his conversation.) ‘Now,
then, is it because I bully her, or has she got a love affair--eh, old
chap? Own up!’ The Rev. Johanko frowned and shook his head.

‘The secrets of the confessional are sacred. Go to!’

The wicked Wenzel didn’t go to, as you will presently see. He went nap.
Soon afterwards, at a royal dinner-party, a capon came up, and the King
got a slice from the breast that was slightly underdone. Whereupon, in a
rage, he seized the capon, hurled it on the floor, and jumped upon it.
(I fancy he suffered with his liver, this Wenzel, and was subject to
neurotic blizzards.) Then he sent for the cook and had him spitted alive
and roasted in front of his kitchen fire. ‘And see that he is better
done than this capon,’ was the King’s final instruction to the cookers
of the cook.

The Rev. Mr. Nepomuk, when he heard of this, gave the King a piece of
his mind, for which impertinence he was put into prison, and, while
there, the King sent for him and said, ‘Now, my friend, are you going to
tell me what the Queen confessed?’ ‘Certainly not, sire,’ replied
Nepomuk, although, after what had happened to the cook, he guessed his
refusal would get him into trouble. It did. Every effort of the King
having failed to shake the determination of the rev. gentleman, he was
one day seized by soldiers, bound hand and foot, and flung over the big
bridge into the Moldau.

King Wenzel fancied no one would know what had become of Nepomuk; but a
miracle happened. When the rev. gentleman fell into the water the water
retired, and the bed of the river was dry for three days. The body was
recovered, and to-day it is in a glass coffin enclosed in a solid silver
one in the cathedral on the Hradshin. The saint has moreover in the
cathedral a solid silver monument, and silver angels holding golden
lamps of immense value hover over his shrine. I shall not forget that
silver monument for many a long day. I was so entranced with it that I
let the Californian-Bohemian tell me stories about Nepomuk that would
have caused the Marines to shake their heads, and it wasn’t until he had
called me ‘honyrabble zir’ for the fourteenth time that at last I took
his arm and led him limping away.

Ever since this occasion St. Nepomuk has been the patron saint of
bridges (he was canonized by Benedict XIII.), and in Bohemia and some
parts of Austria his fête-day is kept with the wildest rejoicings. Oddly
enough, though the people of Prague always sing ‘St. Nepomuk, protect
me’ when they cross a bridge, the bridge from which he was thrown--the
glorious Karlsbrücke--- was broken down, and the middle of it carried
away, by the great floods of 1890. A wooden bridge does duty while the
grand old structure is being rebuilt. As I crossed the portion of the
old stone bridge which is still standing I saw a huge gilt altar,
erected almost at the point where the arches have been swept away. It
was surrounded by hundreds of lamps, and mighty banks of flowers were
piled around it. This was the altar to St. Nepomuk, which was being
prepared for May 16. On that day thousands of pilgrims come from all
parts of Bohemia to visit the bridge, and do honour to the saint. This
year they found that the patron saint of bridges had allowed his own
bridge to come to grief.

This St. Nepomuk Day in Prague is something you must see to understand.
The streets are a dense mass of gay revellers and happy pilgrims from
dawn till midnight. All the quaint national costumes of Bohemia light up
the beflagged and beflowered thoroughfares. All day long the merry lads
and lasses sing Bohemian songs, and dance Bohemian dances in the
streets, the squares, and the parks. At night fireworks blaze up from
all parts of the town, and a million extra lights make the glorious city
on the Moldau a never-to-be-forgotten spectacle.

I lingered in Prague for the fête of St. Nepomuk, and I saw a sight
which I shall remember all my days without referring either to notebook
or diary. Good old St. Nepomuk! If he had not been thrown over the
Karlsbrücke I should not have seen the Bohemian national fête. King
Wenzel, I owe you one!

The National Theatre in Prague, where only plays and operas in the
Czechish language are performed, is one of the finest in Europe. I saw
there a Czechish opera entitled ‘Prodaná Nevěsta,’ or ‘The Sold Bride.’
At the ‘Národni Divadlo,’ or National Theatre, the operas are staged in
a manner which excites the admiration even of our own Sir Augustus, and
the chorus works as I have never seen a chorus work before. Everybody
enters into the business of the scene, and fills it up, and the illusion
is absolutely perfect.

As they thought it worth while to make an exhibition of theatrical
programmes at the Vienna Exhibition, I may as well give you a little bit
of a Prague programme (no charge), just to show you how it looks. Here
is the one for which in a private box I paid ten kreuzers, and which an
old lady obligingly stuck on to the velvet with a pin to prevent its
falling over.


PRODANÁ NEVĚSTA.

Komická zpěvohra o třech jednáních. Hudbu složil BEDŘICH SMETANA. Slova
od K. Sabiny.


OSOBY:

    Krušina, sedlák             p. ryt. Skramlík.
    Ludmila, jeho manželka      sl. Vykoukalova.
    Mařenka, jejich dcera       sl. Veselá.
    Mícha, statkář              p. Viktorin.
    Háta, jeho manželka         pí. Klánová-Panznerova.
    Vašek, jejich syn           p. Krössing.
    Jeník, selský hoch             p. Veselý.
    Kecal, dohazovač            p. Heš.
    Komediant, principál           p. Mošna.
    Esmeralda, jeho dcera          sl. Cavallarova.
    Ind án, komediant druhý        p. Pulc.
    První }  selský kluk  {        p. Mušek
    Druhý }               {        sl. Vobořilova

Selská chasa, komedianti, kluci.

Děj v čas pouti na české vesnici.

Coming home from the Divadlo I lost myself, and had a bad quarter of an
hour wandering around small back streets and trying to ask my way in
Czechish. The theatres begin at half-past six in Prague, some of them as
early as five, so that soon after ten there are very few people in the
streets. It was half-past ten when I succeeded in getting out of a
labyrinth of byways into what looked like a main thoroughfare, and then
there was not a soul to be seen--not even a Prague policeman with
ostrich feathers in his hat. I wondered how on earth I should get to my
hotel, for I hadn’t the faintest idea where it was, and one street was
very like another to me. I wandered up and down for a quarter of an
hour, hoping a belated wayfarer would come along, but I only met a
couple of cats swearing at each other in Czechish, and they fled at my
approach.

What was I to do? I didn’t feel inclined to wander about Prague all
night. Suddenly a brilliant idea occurred to me. I saw a red light over
a door, and outside a bell, with the German for night bell written below
it. A doctor lived there. I hesitated a moment, and then I rang it.
Presently a gentleman put his head out of an upper window and addressed
me in Czechish. I replied in German that I didn’t understand the
language. Then he asked me what I wanted in German. I replied, ‘Advice;
I am not well. Please come down and feel my pulse and look at my
tongue.’ He closed the window, came down and opened the front-door, and
asked me to come in. ‘No, thank you,’ I said; ‘I am in a hurry. Come
under the lamp-post.’ He came under the lamp-post, looked at my tongue,
felt my pulse, and said that I was only a little bilious. I had better
go to the chemist’s and get some antibilious pills. ‘Thank you, doctor,’
I said. ‘What is your fee?’ He told me his fee was three gulden for a
night consultation. I paid the money, and then I said to him: ‘And now,
doctor, if you will kindly tell me which is my way to the Hôtel Royal, I
shall be much obliged to you.’ The doctor gave me minute directions,
bowed, put my three gulden in the pocket of his dressing-gown, and went
back to bed; and I went back to my hotel and did ditto.

It was rather an expensive method of asking your way, but what are you
to do when you are lost in a town where everybody goes to bed at ten,
and not a living soul reappears in the streets till the next morning? I
don’t know whether the policemen go to bed, but I didn’t see one about.
Perhaps they were all having pipes round a quiet corner.

Messrs. Slavata and Martinitz owe their immortality to their having been
victims of that excellent Bohemian method of getting rid of an enemy
which is called ‘po starotshesku.’ There is a splendid simplicity about
the process. It merely consists of taking your enemy by the legs and
throwing him out of the window. The higher the window the better for you
and the worse for your enemy. Slavata and Martinitz were flung out of
the window of a high tower in which the Council Chamber was situated.
Although both fell actually on their heads, they figuratively fell on
their feet, for a heap of manure received them safely and broke the news
that they had arrived at their destination gently to them. They escaped
and lived for some years afterwards, but the religious party in whose
cause they had made themselves objectionable kept their memory green,
and to-day in Prague, after you have honoured St. John of Nepomuk, you
are expected to pay homage to the memory of Slavata and Martinitz.

After I had finished the Hradshin, and wandered through the royal
palace, I had to lead my guide through the palace of Wallenstein, where
he pointed out to me all the mementoes of the mighty general of the
Thirty Years’ War in the famous halls. By this time I was so dog-tired
that I began to hate Bohemia, and almost to think unkind things about
St. John of Nepomuk; and when my guide wanted me to take him over
another church, I rose up and politely intimated to him that if he asked
me to see anything else that day I would give him a chance of
immortality by throwing him into the Moldau at the very spot where
Nepomuk perished. I think he saw I meant it, so he allowed me to put him
in a carriage and take him home.

I have only hummed one air since I came into Austria, and that is, ‘Oh,
them gulden slippers.’ They give you your gulden in a banknote, and a
gulden is not quite two shillings. The astonishing rapidity with which
those guldens became gulden slippers must be seen to be believed.
Cabmen, railway porters, restaurant waiters, and the people generally
who expect tips, never have any change, and it is cheaper to give the
gulden than to wait while they go to the Bank of Austria to get it
changed. If they have change it is of such a character that you are
better without it. Eating cheap tinned peas, the colour of the
O’Flaherty floral abomination, is a harmless amusement compared with
keeping the small coin currency of the Austrian Empire in your pocket
with chocolate creams, peppermints, cough lozenges, digestive tablets,
and other delicacies of the season.



CHAPTER XXII.

VIENNA.


Under a domed roof, a green garden with flower-beds and gravel paths. In
the centre a fountain. The outer circle built as a series of stages,
each with a set scene--one a scene from a Russian play, another a scene
from a German opera, another a scene from a Hungarian comedy, and so
forth, until about a dozen set scenes have been set out. Around, in
outer rings, with rooms branching off, various galleries containing old
musical instruments, cases of theatrical costumes, portraits of actors
and actresses, and working models of stages. Beyond, in the grounds,
cafés, restaurants, and wooden theatres in which performances of various
kinds are given; also ‘Old Vienna,’ after the manner of ‘Old London.’
That is the Vienna Musical and Dramatic Exhibition of 1892.

I spent two afternoons and one morning in this exhibition, not because I
amused myself, but because I felt that it was my duty to see all that
was to be seen. Naturally my first endeavour, after I had taken a
scamper round, was to find the English department--or the section
allotted to England--in order to see what sort of a show my
fellow-countrymen had made. The catalogue which I purchased for
seventy-five kreuzers informed me that the president of the English
committee was Se. Königliche Hoheit Herzog von Edinburgh, and that
among the committee were A. C. Macencie, W. G. Cusins, S. B. Bankroft,
Sir George Grow, etc. The correct spelling of names is not a strong
point, evidently, at the Vienna Exhibition.

There is a good old proverb which says, ‘Blessed is he that expecteth
little, for he shall not be disappointed.’ After wandering wearily about
for three-quarters of an hour and closely cross-examining every official
I encountered, an obliging Austrian workman, who was doing something to
a packing-case, volunteered to take me to the British Section. He led me
to a huge vacant space, in which in disorderly array stood a number of
dirty empty glass cases. ‘This, sir, is the British Section,’ he said,
waving his hand around a few feet of bare wall, and then pointing to a
battered old packing-case labelled ‘This side up--with care.’ That,
gentle reader, was the British Section as I saw it on May 16, and that
was all that there was to see. The British exhibits, I was told, had
only just arrived, and they would not be unpacked for several days.

I am told that the British exhibits, when they are unpacked, will be
exceedingly novel and interesting. There is a curious coffin-shaped case
still at the Custom House, which is said to contain the skeleton of a
dramatic critic who attended every _matinée_ to which he was invited.
There is a full-length portrait of Mr. William Archer felling the
Examiner of Plays to earth with the manuscript of a Norwegian tragedy.
There is a wax model of a lady sitting in the stalls at a _matinée_ with
a hat three feet high, and behind her are several gentlemen standing up
and dividing the feathers and ribbons on the top of it in order to peep
through them at the stage. There is a life-size figure of Mr. Horace
Sedger sitting with the map of London in front of him, and pointing out
Islington as a provincial town to Mr. W. S. Gilbert. There is the famous
‘No Fee’ banner which was lowered from the gallery of the Olympic as a
welcome back to London to Mr. Wilson Barrett; and there is also a
complete collection in a glass case of the costumes worn by sandwich-men
as advertisements for the West End Theatres of London.

All these things, I am assured, will be exhibited in due time to the
gaze of the wondering crowd that will flock to the Vienna Exhibition.
That they will give the foreigner an excellent idea of the status of the
drama in Great Britain I have not the slightest doubt. Up to the
present, unfortunately, so far as the British Section is concerned,
‘there is nothing in it.’

When I found nothing in the English Section, and very little in any
other section except the Bavarian and the Russian, I determined to see
something, and so I asked for Frederick the Great’s flute. Somebody had
told me that it had been forwarded to Vienna from Berlin. The first day
that I went to the exhibition I asked many officials where it was, and
they directed me to various parts of the building. I found hundreds of
flutes of all ages here. As none of them had anything but a number on,
and the catalogue would not be ready for a fortnight, I was unable to
pitch upon the particular instrument. (There is a catalogue
published--the one to which I am indebted for the names of the English
committee--but that is only a catalogue of the modern instruments.) On
the second day of my visit I made further inquiries, and drove the
officials to despair. I suppose I must have asked the same people over
and over again without knowing it, for at last when they saw me coming
they walked rapidly away and hid behind grand pianos. I heard one man
say to another, ‘Lieber Gott, here is this Englander again who wants
Frederick the Great’s flute!’ And the pair disappeared as if by magic.

I was determined not to be beaten, so on the third day I tried again;
but the first man I went to, instead of replying, took me to the room of
the secretary of the exhibition. The secretary was extremely polite.
‘Ah, sir,’ he exclaimed, ‘I am very pleased to see you. You have driven
our people very nearly mad. One of them came to me yesterday with a
telegram which he wished sent to Berlin, and the entire staff had
subscribed to the expense of forwarding it. This was the telegram: “For
Heaven’s sake tell us where Frederick the Great’s flute is. There is an
Englishman who does nothing but ask us all day long.” I sent that
telegram, sir, and have received a reply. Frederick the Great’s flute
has not been sent. It is still in Germany.’ Of course, I apologized for
the trouble I had given, and blamed the person who had told me the
famous instrument was among the German exhibits. Fancy an exhibition of
famous musical instruments without Frederick the Great’s flute! It is
‘Hamlet’ without the Prince of Denmark.

In the theatres of Austria, as in those of the German Empire, ladies are
expected to remove their bonnets everywhere except in the private boxes.
No hats or bonnets are allowed in the stalls, dress circle, pit, or
gallery. The reason of this restriction is that hats have of late years
assumed such gigantic proportions, that a front row of females would
shut out a view of the stage from the rest of the house.

But the ladies--Heaven bless them!--have discovered a way of taking
their revenge. They have invented a method of wearing the hair which
makes the removal of the hat a mere farce. The authorities are now
seriously discussing the question of making lady playgoers leave their
hair in the cloak-room as well as their hats.

I have been peculiarly unfortunate in my attempts to see something of
the German and Austrian stage. The fact which I am about to narrate
will, I have no doubt, be taken with several grains of salt, but on my
honour it _is_ a fact nevertheless. I went to the theatre in Dresden--to
the opera--and a lady sat in front of me. She was a charming American
lady, with a mass of gray hair, but she wore it absolutely a foot high,
after the manner of a pantaloon’s wig. At Prague, when I went to the
Czechish Theatre, to my intense astonishment this lady came in with her
husband and again sat in front of me. Two days later, on the Sunday
night, I went to the Vienna Opera House to see the ‘Puppenfee’ and
‘L’Amico Fritz.’ The seats in front of me were vacant, and I was just
congratulating myself on at last getting a view of the stage during a
performance, when in walked the lady with the Eiffel Tower hair!

That I should have sat behind the same person, an utter stranger to me,
in three towns one after the other, is a coincidence so extraordinary
that I think it worth mentioning. I don’t know what the odds against
such a treble event coming off are--something in trillions I should
fancy--but it did come off. The hair unfortunately did not.

The Prater on Sunday was thronged, and a dozen bands were playing in the
excellent coffee gardens scattered about it. But the great sight to me
was the ‘Punch and Judy, or People’s Prater.’ Here, among hundreds of
merry-go-rounds, Richardson’s shows, outdoor balls, and the general ‘fun
of the fair,’ you could walk upon the people’s heads. I should like to
take Messrs. M’Dougall and Parkinson through the Punch and Judy Prater
of Vienna one day and show them how the toiling masses of a great city
can enjoy themselves when plenty of cheap amusement and good wholesome
refreshment are provided for them.

There is one peculiar custom in certain parts of Austria, notably in
Vienna, which it takes an Englishman some time to get accustomed to.
When you are generous to anyone the recipient of your bounty makes a
tremendous bow and ‘kisses your hand.’ Sometimes this phrase is a mere
form of words, ‘Ich küsse die hand’ (the Viennese say, ‘Ich kiss die
hand), but frequently the actual performance takes place. A lady gives,
say, to the chambermaid of her hotel a gulden, and instantly the
chambermaid exclaims, ‘I kiss your hand,’ and does it. I have seen the
English ladies thoroughly nonplussed at the unexpected homage.

The porter at the Vienna railway-station who put my portmanteau on a cab
told me that he kissed my hand, and my cabman, to my complete
discomfiture, actually did it. As soon as I discovered it was a custom
of the country, I became rather nervous, and when I went to a little
theatre and an old lady handed me a programme, fearing the possible
salute, I only gave her a copper coin. She didn’t ‘kiss my hand,’ but
went off muttering in the Viennese dialect something which, fortunately
for my self-esteem, I was unable to grasp.

I spent a pleasant week in Vienna, but felt rather the worse for wear
when I left. The custom of the country is that you should consume a
mid-day meal with several glasses of beer, have wine in the middle of
it, and finish up with cognac or kummel. Then in the afternoon everybody
goes to the Prater, and sits at the first, second, or third coffee-house
and drinks more beer--sometimes six glasses, one after the other. The
middle-day meal is a terrific one, consisting of six or seven courses;
but towards four the Viennese get hungry again, and so at the Prater
coffee-gardens a man walks about with a basket of enormous sausages in
one hand and a pair of scales in the other, and about half a
hundredweight of Gruyère cheese under his arm. You have rolls of bread
on every little table where you drink your beer, so all you have to do
is to cry ‘salami,’ which is sausage, and instantly the gentleman with
the basket comes to your table, cuts you as many slices as you require,
weighs them, and puts them in front of you on a piece of clean white
paper. You then drink your beer and eat your sausage with your fingers,
gnawing a piece of bread in between. And thus the happy hours glide away
towards evening, and the best military bands of Vienna soothe you with
the soft strains of music. It is only in Vienna that you can have
Strauss and salami together.

At ten, after the theatres are over, eating begins again, and is of a
most formidable character. The best restaurants are crowded. At Sacher’s
you cannot get a table, for all the elegant world from the opera is
there. At Leidinger’s there is scarcely room for you to pass between the
crowd of feasters and find a place for your hat and umbrella, and at the
Old Tobacco-pipe, where the Viennese kitchen proper (or improper if you
prefer it) reigns supreme, you sometimes have to wait your turn and
stand at the door eagerly watching for a supster to come out that you
may go in.

Before I left Vienna, having exhausted the theatres, I did a round of
the waxwork exhibitions. These delighted me hugely, many of the subjects
being realistic enough to make M. Zola’s hair stand on end. Our Chamber
of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s is buttermilk compared with the chambers
of horrors I saw in Vienna. The whole series of tortures inflicted by
the Inquisition are realized in one establishment in the Kohl Market,
and the wax figures roll their eyes and quiver with agony, and open
their mouths and gasp in so lifelike a manner, that sometimes the
country-folks grow indignant and want to get at the Grand Inquisitor and
the executioner and lynch them.

The Schneiders, who systematically robbed and murdered servant-girls,
are prominent features in all the waxworks of Austria; but they didn’t
interest me nearly so much as an elegantly-dressed young gentleman of
aristocratic appearance, who won renown some time ago by committing a
murder under rather novel circumstances. He was a young man of good
family, and at one time had money; but he gambled and lost it, and,
being hard up, conceived a highly original plan for replenishing his
purse. It is the custom in Austrian as in many European towns for the
postman to bring a registered letter up to the room of the person who is
to receive it, and to take the signature for it there. As this causes
considerable delay on a round, the registered letters are kept back from
the ordinary delivery, and sent out by a special postman. Our hero
addressed an envelope to himself, put some money in it, registered it,
and then made his little arrangements. When the postman came up to his
bachelor apartment on the fourth-floor of a big house, he stunned him
with a sudden blow, then finished him off, and, taking his bag of
registered letters, opened the lot, extracted the banknotes, jewellery,
etc., and made tracks with them. He got a very large sum of money, but
the postman’s body was quickly discovered, and the aristocratic youth
went through the dead-letter office.

But the most ghastly bit of realism of all is, I think, a representation
of ‘The Last Moments of Alexander II.’ The Czar lies on a real bed, with
his uniform and his linen saturated with blood. His shirt is open to
the breast, and a horrible gaping wound is exposed to the eye of the
spectator. As the figure breathes convulsively, the eyes roll up in the
head, and _real blood_ gushes up to the surface of the terrible wound. I
have never been so horribly fascinated in my life as I was by that
figure of the dying Cæsar, with his life-blood welling up before my
eyes. It was shocking, it was brutal, it was hideous; but it held me
spellbound by its intense reality. You forgot you were looking at a wax
figure in a glass-case. You seemed to be watching a real man dying a
horrible death. It was with the greatest difficulty that I prevented
myself running for the nearest doctor.



CHAPTER XXIII.

BUDAPEST.


After my nocturnal adventure in Prague, I made up my mind that if I
wanted to do Austria thoroughly in a fortnight it was absolutely
necessary I should have someone familiar with the tongues of Bohemia and
Hungary, to say nothing of Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro. I met
Herr Julius, cosmopolitan courier, promiscuously at a café in Vienna. We
fell into conversation, and I secured him then and there to accompany me
upon my Hungarian explorations. Herr Julius not only speaks German,
French, English, Italian, and Spanish fluently, but is as a native when
it comes to Czechish and Magyar and Croatian.

Herr Julius shares with Albert Edward a taste for good cigars and
high-class cookery. In other matters he has a frugal mind. He delights
in bargains, and points with pride to his success in various parts of
the world. Herr Julius is an object-lesson in economy. He shows me his
umbrella, and his face lights up with pride as he informs me that he has
had it for some years, and that he bought it for eight shillings in
Cairo. He takes off his hat, pats it lovingly, and tells me that he got
it in the winter of 1889 in Naples for four shillings and sixpence. He
asks me what I think of his boots. I admire them, and he explains that
he purchased them of a waiter at Seville for two shillings, because they
had been left behind by a German prince who died in the hotel. Charmed
by these revelations, I venture to ask him what he paid for his suit,
and instantly his face assumes an expression of triumph. He asks me to
guess. I guess five pounds. ‘No, sir,’ he exclaims, with a grin that
displays every tooth in his head, and he has an excellent set; ‘for dis
suit I give two pounds five in Tottenhams Court Road more two year ago.
Ah, what a suit! I put him away every winter and he comes out die nexto
sommer every year better he was before.’

The most picturesque way of going to Budapest from Vienna is naturally
down the Danube. But there are slight difficulties in the way. The
steamer leaves at seven in the morning, and that means getting up at
four o’clock at your hotel. Four o’clock is not my usual hour of rising.
It is nearer my usual time of going to bed, and, much as I wanted to
take the Danube trip, I could not contemplate that early departure
without a shudder. But Herr Julius came to the rescue. ‘You shall go on
board the night before, you see, sir,’ he said, ‘and there you shall
sleep comfortable, and no get up till so you choose.’ I agreed that this
would be one way out of the difficulty, but as I was desirous to go to
the Theater an der Wien in the evening, in order to see ‘Heisses Blut,’
a play which had gained considerable vogue in Vienna, I explained that I
should have to come on board rather late. ‘That shall not matter,’
replied Herr Julius, ‘you shall pack everythings, pay your bill, go to
the theatre, and I shall take your everythings on board de shiff and
make you secure one nice cabines. Is that good?’

We took a ‘fiaker’ that afternoon, and drove to the ship, which was
lying alongside the quay. There was only one official on board, and he
received us with a bow so low that his front hair swept a lot of
coal-dust from the deck. This official was the second steward. We
explained our needs, and he immediately placed the entire vessel at our
disposal. It was rarely that passengers came on board at night, but we
were welcome. A bed should be made up for the gentlemen in a cabin. The
kitchen would be shut at eleven, but cold meat and bread and wine should
be left out, and he (the under-steward) would remain ever at the
gentlemen’s service. The preliminary arrangements were made, the
under-steward swept the deck again with his front hair, and Herr Julius
and your humble servant drove back to the town.

I packed and saw my luggage loaded on a cab and taken to the quay, and
then I went to the theatre and was hugely entertained by ‘Heisses Blut,’
a musical absurdity written around a well-known Hungarian actress,
Fräulein Palma. At ten I left the theatre, made my way to the ship,
found an excellent supper waiting for me, went to bed, and slept
soundly. When I awoke the ship was well on her way down the Danube, and
the excellent Herr Julius was knocking at my cabin-door with a cup of
strong tea and the information that it was a fine day, and that there
was nobody on board but ourselves, ten dwarfs, a giant, and a performing
boarhound.

I soon made friends with the dwarfs. Four of them were the smallest
little fellows I have ever seen. They had been all over France and
Germany, and had been touring for two years in Spain. The giant also was
affable, and an American travelling with them as lecturer favoured me
with much curious information.

Budapest is, as the guide-books say, ‘picturesquely situated’ on both
sides of the Danube; Buda is on one side, and Pest is on the other. It
takes you a little time after you arrive in Hungary to find out where
you actually are, because the Hungarians in their intense Magyarism have
abolished all German names, signs, notices, and indications. A
traveller, for instance, who wanted to get off the Danube steamer at
Pressburg, the first big stopping-place in Hungary one gets to after
leaving Vienna, would probably pass Pozsony by. But Pozsony is
Pressburg, though there is nothing but your guide-book to let you know
it. At one time in Hungary names of streets, etc., were put up in the
two languages; now the German is all taken down and Magyar reigns
supreme.

No national movement in Europe has of late years made such tremendous
strides as Magyarism. The Hungarians have Home Rule, and mean to stick
to it. The Emperor of Austria reigns only as King of Hungary. Hungary
has its own Parliament, makes its own laws, and has its own
postage-stamps. The Austrians are not so unpopular as they were in years
gone by, when the Hungarians called them ‘damned Germans;’ but there is
still a strong feeling against Austrian interference. As I write these
lines all Budapest is bubbling over with excitement about the death of
General Klapka, the hero of Komorn, one of the patriots of the former
stormy days. Klapka died in one of the hotels here. The Austrian
officials--so the Hungarians say--tried to get him buried quietly and at
once, whereupon Budapest rose up, and the voice of the Magyar was heard
in the land. ‘Is he a drowned dog, this our hero,’ the Hungarians said,
‘that he should be flung into the earth at once? No! we--we his
fellow-countrymen, his fellow-sufferers in days gone by, his
fellow-patriots now, will honour him dead as we loved him living!’ And
so General Klapka had a grand Hungarian funeral, and thousands upon
thousands of Hungarians flocked to the ceremony.

There are two things you never get away from in Budapest--red pepper,
called páprïka, and czigani, or gipsy music. On every table you have
dark red pepper in a salt-cellar, and in every hotel you find the gipsy
band worrying away at the fiddlestrings.

The Hungarian ladies are famed for their beauty, and Budapest has a
reputation which would not recommend it as a summer residence to Messrs.
M’Dougall and Parkinson. The poet might here indulge in ‘a dream of dark
women’ to his heart’s content. The baths for which Budapest is renowned
are conducted on principles not altogether in accordance with English
ideas of morality, and are frequently meeting-places for affairs of
gallantry. The modest Englishman with insular prejudices has all his
work cut out to avoid blushing at the propositions which are made to him
by the couriers and guides attached to the principal hotels,
propositions made not with a grin and a whisper, but with a stately bow,
and in the ordinary tone of general conversation.

The Hungarian or Magyar language is startling in its peculiarities. When
you wish to bid anyone good-day you say ‘Yonapol,’ and if you meet
anyone to whom you wish to be polite you say ‘Alarzatos Szolgaya'--‘I am
your humble servant.’ That is the ‘Adieu’ of Hungary, and takes the
place of the Viennese ‘I kiss the hand.’ Everybody in Hungary is ‘your
humble servant.’

My favourite stroll in Budapest when I am tired of red pepper and the
gipsies is the bridge which connects Buda and Pest and makes them one
town. The Danube here is 1,800 feet broad, and until the bridge was
built in 1849 the only means of connection was a bridge of barges, and
in the winter, when the Danube was swollen, this was frequently unsafe,
and all connection between the two towns was suspended. The English
engineers, Clark and Tiernay, built this bridge, but the opposition of
the Hungarian nobles was tremendous. They had the right of crossing the
old bridge free by reason of their rank, but Baron Sma, of Vienna, who
found the £500,000 necessary for the undertaking, claimed the right to
levy toll for the space of eighty-five years, and so everyone has to pay
toll at the present day. The Hungarian nobleman still feels that he is
sacrificing himself to ‘a d----d German’ every time he pulls out the
kreuzers demanded by the bridge-keepers.

The old Hungarian prejudices remain, but, alas! the old Hungarian
costumes are rapidly disappearing. The young noblemen still drive four
spanking horses in a mail-phaeton, and now and then one sees the
Hungarian coachman in high boots, light blue coat and silver buttons,
and the pork-pie hat with long ribbons hanging down behind it. But the
bulk of the populace have abandoned high boots and frogged coats, and
now and then one even sees a tall hat on a Hungarian head.

The high Wellington boots are still worn by the peasant women and the
peasant men, but not by the better classes. The high hat is not so
generally adopted as modern trousers and boots, because for many years
it was the sign of a ‘German.’ Herr Julius can remember the day when a
man in a high hat was yelled at by the roughs wherever he went, and many
a luckless owner of a chimney-pot was bonneted in public amid the jeers
of the bystanders. ‘A Schwoab!’ the people would cry directly they
espied the obnoxious topper. ‘A Schwoab’ means a German, and sounds
suspiciously like ‘a swab.’ ‘Német’ is another name for a German. I am
assured this feeling has passed away, but I know better. ‘The King of
Hungary’ comes to his palace at Buda now for three months in the year,
and the Austrians talk their German language and wear their
chimney-pots without being insulted; but the Hungarians still look upon
all things Austrian askance, and it did not need the demonstration and
the speeches which the recent attempt to bury Klapka György Tabornok
quietly has called forth to prove that the patriotic Magyar still chafes
beneath the Austrian yoke.

I am going to the theatre in Budapest to see a Magyar melodrama,
entitled ‘A Betyár Kendöje’ ('The Brigand’s Handkerchief'). They call
the theatre a Szinház. That is a little startling, but when you have got
accustomed to fogado for a hotel, and you have to tell the porter to
look after your podgyars for luggage, and you learn that ó nö is an old
woman, and that Vienna is Bécs, and bor is wine, and viz--not namely--is
water, and Isten is God, you are prepared for anything.

I like fruit, but when the waiter asks me if I will take some ‘gyümöics’
I hesitate. (In parentheses, the most exquisite thing I have eaten in
Hungary is the fogas, a Lower Danube fish. Cold, with sauce Tartare, it
is delicious. The red-pepper dishes I have not fallen so violently in
love with, although páprïka huhn and gulyás are by no means to be
despised.)

I started to go to the theatre the other night, but I found that the
play was ‘Hamlet, Dankiralfy,’ which is ‘Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,’ and
I thought better of it. It may interest the general reader to know that
the performance took place on Vasárnap (which is Sunday), Május 22-én,
and was ‘Eredeti népszinmü dalokkal 4 szakaszban. Irta Abonyi Lajos.
Zenéjét Nikolics Sándor.’

The Magyar melodrama, entitled ‘The Brigand’s Handkerchief,’ turned out
to be a very old friend. It was only ‘Falsely Accused’ in a foreign
language. A Hungarian brigand, having behaved badly to his young wife
and attempted to murder her to slow music in the snow, she leaves him
and enters the service of a dear old lady under an assumed name. The
dear old lady’s son falls in love with her, and asks her to marry him.
But she says there are reasons which stand in the way, and, being the
leading lady, has a long soliloquy all to herself in the centre of the
stage. In the meantime the brigand has fallen into the toils of a gipsy
girl, who dances Hungarian dances and sings Hungarian songs at a low
Hungarian public-house. The brigand is made drunk with fourteen bottles
of wine and fourteen lighted candles, and agrees to go out at night with
the gipsy girl and do a little house-breaking. I can’t tell you why,
when the fourteen bottles are placed on the table for the brigand, a
lighted candle is placed by each bottle. It seemed to me a fearful waste
of tallow, but I presume it is a custom of the country.

The gipsy lady dresses herself up as a man, and puts pistols in her
belt, and off she goes with the brigand straight to the house of the
dear old lady at midnight. All is quiet, only the unhappy wife is about,
and she has just packed up everything she has in the world in a small
pocket-handkerchief, and is about to leave the house of her benefactress
clandestinely, in order to avoid the pathetic love-making of her young
master. The brigand and brigandess enter. The wife, who has returned to
her bedroom for a pocket-handkerchief--one her husband gave her on her
wedding-day--comes out, and is about to be shot by the brigandess, when
the brigand starts, and exclaims in the Magyar language, ‘Heaven, it is
my long-lost wife!’ and dashes the pistol from his fair (or, rather,
dark) accomplice’s hand, while the injured wife falls fainting on the
floor. At that moment the young master, having heard a noise, rushes in;
the brigandess escapes, but the brigand is seized after a violent
struggle, thrust into an inner room, and the keys turned upon him. Then
off rushes the young master to fetch a policeman. The wife recovers,
says, ‘O Isten’ (Isten is the Magyar for the Deity), ‘my husband will be
executed if he is caught and recognised as the notorious brigand.’ So
she unlocks the door, and promptly bids him leave by the window, which
he does, after giving off a short speech.

You can guess the rest. When the police enter and find the man gone and
the girl trembling, they at once accuse her of being an accomplice, and
of having let the robber in and also of having let him out. The man has
dropped a pocket-handkerchief of a peculiar pattern. On searching the
girl they find one of the same make in her pocket. Evidently they were
accomplices. So the girl is arrested.

The last act takes place at the police-station. The heroine has a bad
time and weeps, but refuses to clear herself. Enter the brigand husband,
who says, ‘I am here. I am So-and-so, the notorious brigand. I broke
into the house. This woman released me because I was her husband. See,
here are the other five handkerchiefs of half a dozen I inherited from
my mother. The sixth I gave to Marie on our wedding-day, and that is how
our handkerchiefs are of the same pattern.’ The police at once arrest
the husband, and the wife is free. The husband is dragged off. A shot is
heard. He has killed himself. At that moment the young master rushes in,
and exclaims, ‘Marie, will you marry me now?’ Marie falls into her young
master’s arms and says, ‘Yes--if you will wait.’ I think she added,
‘Until after the funeral,’ but I am not sufficiently master of Magyar to
commit myself absolutely on the point.

Some years ago the crowded house which greeted this Magyar melodrama
would have been impossible. Half the audience, though Hungarian, would
not have understood their own language. They would have wanted it
translated into German.

To understand the immense strides which Magyarism has made one must look
back a little. To-day hardly a German word is to be heard in the
thoroughfares, and no German words disfigure the public announcements,
the sign-posts, the playbills, or the street corners. There are many
thousands of Hungarians who do not even understand German. Think of
this, and then remember that in 1840 a movement for the reintroduction
of the Magyar language at the University of Pest met with but scant
encouragement outside the town. The police then spoke German, the army
spoke German, the lectures of the University were delivered in Latin. Up
to the year 1790 there was not even a professor at the University who
_spoke_ Magyar. To-day in the towns everything is Magyar and nothing is
German.

To-day (it was ‘to-day’ when this was written), in the hotel at which I
am staying, the patriots have a dinner. Their dining-room adjoins the
writing-room in which I am penning (or rather pencilling) these lines.
Great speeches are being made, and every now and then the room rings
again with the Magyar cries of ‘Elyen! Elyen!’ (Bravo! bravo!) and
‘Hayunk, hayunk!’ (Hear, hear). There is in the room, writing, a young
man with a coal-black beard, fierce gleaming eyes, and the milk-white
teeth for which the Magyars are renowned. He listens to the speeches
that come through the closed door, and presently, as one of the speakers
makes a great point amid a roar of applause in the next room, he springs
to his feet and shouts ‘Elyen! Elyen!’ too. Then, catching my astonished
gaze, he smiles, begs me to excuse him, and explains that he is the son
of a Hungarian exile, that he was born in Egypt, whither his father
fled to escape imprisonment for his political opinions in the days of
tyranny, and that he is thinking of those years of exile now, and the
father who died in a far-off country for love of his native land.

I left Budapest on Monday morning by the Orient express for Munich, and
Herr Julius, who saw me to the railway-station, wept on my breast and
whiled away the time with anecdotes of his past career. Herr Julius had
once saved a nice little fortune--many thousands of florins--and he
wanted to invest it. He knew many of the financial barons of Vienna. He
asked their advice, and, acting on it, he bought the ‘obligations’ of a
local company. These obligations cost him five hundred florins each, and
they were soon to be worth a thousand, and Herr Julius would make a fine
thing of his investment. But the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang
aft a-gley, and the great ‘krach’ came suddenly, and with it widespread
ruin. Companies were scattered before the winds like chaff. Great
financial houses came tumbling down as though they had been built of
cards, and Vienna rang with the cries and curses of the ruined and
undone. The ‘obligations’ which Herr Julius had bought rattled down in
value till at last they became almost worthless. In despair the poor
fellow was glad to take five florins each for the ‘obligations’ for
which he had paid five hundred, and he was lucky to get that, for a day
or two afterwards the bubble burst utterly, and the ‘papers’ he had held
were not worth a kreuzer each!

‘Ah, sir,’ says Herr Julius, his eyes filling with tears, ‘after that my
little fortune was gone, not for months did I sleep. I beat my breast, I
tore my hair, I could eat nothings; my life was to me one great burthen.
At last I say to myself, Julius, old man, this does not do; your little
fortune it has gone, but you must cheer yourself and begin again the
battle of life. So one day I say to myself, I will forget, I will drown
care, I will go out and enjoy myself, and laugh with the rest. The first
day that I shake the sorrow from my mind I go to the Prater in the
afternoon. I enter the third coffee-house; I sit in the garden and
listen to the band. I drink my beer and feel hungry. The man come with
salami; I say I will eat, and I buy for twopence halfpenny some salami.

‘Well, sir,’ continued Herr Julius, ‘the man he weigh me out my salami,
and he spread out a piece of paper, and he put upon it my six slices. I
drink a good draught of beer. I pick up my salami, and I say, “Julius,
after all life is good, still can you have your beer and salami.” At
that moment my eye it catches the piece of paper. I look at it. It has
print on it. It has a number. Ach, leiber Gott! it is my “obligation”
for which I have paid once five hundred florins. On that has the sausage
man served me with twopennyworth of salami! That night again I sleep
not.’

I express my sympathy with Herr Julius, and the Orient express steams
into the station. In his excitement at bidding me farewell Herr Julius
drops his overcoat, which he carries over his arm. Instantly the
platform is spread as for a feast. Herr Julius has carefully collected
the débris of dinners for which I have paid without availing myself of
all the privileges to which I am entitled. Oranges roll about in every
direction; sweet biscuits are crushed under the heels of hurrying
porters; pink prawns and white radishes make the dull platform gay with
colour; the wing of a fowl and the leg of a goose fall together on to
the line. Here is a piece of cheese, there half a dozen lumps of sugar.
Herr Julius gives a wild shriek, falls upon his hands and knees, and
proceeds to gather up the fragments that remain. And while he is still
collecting these remnants of our many feasts the engine whistles, and
the Orient express bears me away. I thrust my head out of the window,
and the last glimpse I get of Herr Julius shows me that remarkable man
busily engaged in picking gravel and cinders from a small piece of
Gruyère cheese. I paid for it, and he is determined that it shall not be
wasted.

I only spent one day in Munich, and then I fled to the Bavarian Alps.
The customs of the city were too much for me. From early morn till late
at night the Munichers drink beer and eat radishes the size of turnips.
I had great difficulty, not being Sandow, in lifting up the mug of beer
which was brought to me at a beer-garden. Putting it down I found a
sheer impossibility. But I sat at a table with a fine young Bavarian,
who put away ten huge mugs of the national beverage in rapid succession.
I was taken to one garden--the Lion Brewery Garden--where the average
sale is 10,000 litres a day, and there are fifty such establishments in
full swing in Munich.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A MAD KING’S PALACE.


Not being able to drink beer and eat turnip radishes, and the theatres
all being closed, I went off to the mountains and made for
Herrenchiemsee, the lovely lake on which the wide world’s wonder, King
Ludwig’s gorgeous palace, is situated. Weird and woful is the tale of
Bavaria’s mad monarch, Ludwig II. He was cursed with that form of
insanity which is called ‘la folie des grandeurs.’ He rode about in
carriages of eye-dazzling magnificence, the panels of which were
hand-painted by great artists at a cost of a thousand pounds per panel,
and his carriages were always drawn by eight cream-white horses. He
dressed himself up as Lohengrin and sailed about the lonely lakes at
midnight on the back of a mechanical swan. The palace that he built at
Herrenchiemsee is a blaze of golden glory. His bed alone cost £20,000,
and he ruined himself before the palace was half finished. The
magnificence of the state apartments and the famous Hall of Mirrors
beggars description. Only a madman afflicted with the ‘folie des
grandeurs’ would have commenced such a dwelling-place. Everything in it
is real gold, real silver, and real marble, and all of the most
exquisite workmanship. A peacock (if ever a peacock brought ill-luck
this one did) which stands in the vestibule cost £7,500. The interior
decoration of one room alone cost £21,000. For a writing-table in the
royal study the King paid £2,000, and throughout the entire palace the
cost of everything is in proportion. No wonder the King found himself
penniless at last, and his subjects unwilling to supply him with further
funds for his mad extravagance. It was the building of this palace which
led to the terrible tragedy on the Starnberg Lake which filled all the
world with horror.

For some time previous to 1886 the King had exhibited strong symptoms of
insanity. He had retired from active participation in affairs of state,
and lived only for his marvellous private operatic performances and the
building of his peerless palace. It was not exactly a sane thing for a
king to dress himself up as the hero of a Wagner opera and sail about on
a swan’s back, and it was, to say the least of it, odd for him to come
mysteriously at midnight on a golden steamer across the silent lake to
his lonely palace and order all the hundred thousand candles to be
lighted that he might march about it and fancy himself a god.

On the hottest day of a hot week I went to the Starnberg Lake to visit
the scene of the tragedy. Just at the spot where Ludwig dragged the
doctor into the lake on the evening of Whit Sunday and murdered him the
Prince Regent has erected a memorial, and here there burns day and night
a blood-red lamp. Long after night had fallen on the lonely island, and
the dull red ray of that lamp fell upon the silent waters, I sat by the
water’s edge and brooded over the strange, sad story of the Starnberg
Lake.

It was Baron von Lutz, the brother of our own Herr Meyer Lutz, that
master of melody, who for many a long year wielded the merry bâton of
Gaiety burlesque, who really put an end to the mad pranks of Ludwig of
Bavaria. When the King could get no more money to finish his ‘enchanted
palace’ with, he ordered Freiherr von Lutz, the Bavarian
Minister-President, to find him the sum he needed at once. Herr Meyer
Lutz’s brother informed the King that the country was not in a position
to comply with such a demand. Immediately the King wrote to the Baron to
say that unless he sent the sum within twenty-four hours the eminent
composer of ‘Faust Up to Date’ would have to go into mourning for him,
as his head would be cut off. This letter Baron von Lutz at once brought
before the Ministry, and the result was that a Commission sat, and
declared the King to be insane and incapable of managing his own
affairs.

Ludwig was at this time at his castle of Hohen Schwangau in the
mountains. Thither the Commissioners, accompanied by Dr. Gudden, the
Asylum director, repaired, directly Prince Luitpold, the King’s uncle,
had accepted the Regency and authorized the arrest of his nephew. The
Commissioners informed the King he was a prisoner, but others learned
the news also. These others were the men of the mountains, who
worshipped their monarch almost as a god--many of them, indeed,
believing him to be superhuman. These brave fellows, arming themselves
with axes and choppers and guns, came pouring down the mountains, and
swore that they would slaughter the Commissioners and set the King free.

The situation looked so threatening that the King was secretly conveyed
that afternoon to a little castle on the Starnberg Lake, where he could
be more effectually guarded. One night only did the poor mad King spend
there. On the evening of the second day--Whit Sunday, 1886--he went for
a walk with Dr. Gudden and the attendants. He talked so calmly and
rationally that when he said pleasantly, ‘Doctor, must these fellows
follow us about everywhere? It isn’t exactly what I care for,’ the
doctor sent the men back to the castle. The King and the doctor went on
along the edge of the lake alone, and were partly hidden from sight by
the trees. What happened after that no human being can say with
certainty; but it is conjectured that the King, saying he was tired, sat
down on a seat, and invited the doctor to sit beside him. Suddenly the
King sprang up and rushed to the lake. The doctor ran after him and
seized him. The King then gripped the doctor by the throat, gave him a
fearful blow in the face which stunned him, and then held him under the
water till he was drowned. Then, freeing himself from the dead man’s
grasp, he walked on and on into the deep blue lake--on and on until the
quiet waters closed over his head, and his mad dream of splendour ended
in the eternal sleep of death.

No one can look upon the spot where the poor mad King died, and think of
that gorgeous palace which was his glory and his life, and which stands
unfinished to this day, without a pang of pity. It would be easy to
moralize upon it. ‘The vanity of human wishes’ writes itself large on
the quiet waters that lave the foot of the lonely memorial to Bavaria’s
hapless King. I have no doubt I should have moralized had I had time.
But my programme was not mapped out for that sort of thing, and so I
turned sadly away from the melancholy shore, gave one last look at the
dim red lamp and the dying Saviour on the cross, and went quietly to the
landing-stage and took the last boat to the opposite shore, and thence
made my way by train to Munich, where I arrived just in time to pack up,
make a light supper, and catch the Paris-bound Orient express at 1.15
a.m.



CHAPTER XXV.

HOLLAND.


I cannot swim. It is a humiliating confession to make at the best of
times, but the admission at the present moment is an absolutely painful
one. I am staying in a place where I am in hourly fear of falling into
the water. My present address is Amsterdam, and no one but a native can
walk about Amsterdam without an uneasy feeling that sooner or later he
will find himself in a canal. There is a canal in front of my door, my
bedroom window at the back of the house opens on to a canal, and there
is a canal round the corner.

To get to the post-office from my hotel you have to cross fourteen
bridges and walk along the side of seven canals. Some of the bridges
suddenly go up in the air just as you are about to step on them. This is
to let the ships through. It is quite right that ships should pass down
the principal streets of Amsterdam, but it is a little annoying to have
to wait for a small fleet to go by when you are in a hurry to get home.
There is, however, this advantage about the bridge going up suddenly on
end ten feet in the air. It makes a wall between you and the water. Now,
when you walk _along_ the canal instead of going over it there is no
wall, and as in the dark the water looks uncommonly like a roadway, and
you see gentlemen and ladies sitting at their doors opposite, you have
to keep on remembering where you are, or else you would go to step in
the middle of the road out of the way of a crowd or a passing vehicle,
and find yourself in an awkward predicament.

A week ago I never thought I should get to Holland. I was afraid I
should have to spend the rest of my days at Bingen on the Rhine, waiting
for a registered letter. Of all the awful things that can happen to a
foreigner in Germany, there is nothing that can compare with the
tortures and anxieties to which he is subjected while waiting for a
registered letter. According to the law of the land, the postman must,
after preliminary inquiries as to your birth, parentage, and habits,
deliver the said letter personally to you in the room in which your
luggage is, and must further take your receipt for the same in ink, and
said receipt must be signed in the presence of the landlord of the hotel
at which you are staying, and the said landlord is also required to
countersign the document.

These stringent regulations are doubtless very wise precautions, and
they can be fulfilled without any great mental or physical suffering,
provided, when you are on a journey, you remain in your hotel all day
long waiting for the postman. Unfortunately I was not able to do so, and
fell a victim to a series of misfortunes probably unprecedented in the
history of registered letter addresses.

On the day that I expected my registered letter I made a little
excursion from Bingen to Wiesbaden, and returned from Wiesbaden at seven
in the evening. As I entered the portals of my hotel the manager, who
speaks German to me, stepped forward and informed me that the postman
had been there ‘mit einem eingeschriebenen Briefe’ for me. The porter,
who is a Swiss, and addresses me in Italian, came up beaming with
smiles, and told me that during my absence there had been ‘una lettera
raccomandata’ for me. The chambermaid met me on the landing (she is from
Alsace, and likes to keep up her French), and whispered confidentially
that the postman had ‘une lettre chargée’ for me; and the head waiter,
who speaks English on principle, even to the Germans, who can’t
understand it, rushed at me when I came downstairs to dinner and
exclaimed, ‘Sare, sare, de postmans, he bin here with wretcheder letter
for you. He come again seven o’clock to-morrow mornings.’

Now, if there is one thing I abhor and abominate on the Continent it is
the custom of the early postman banging at my bedroom door when I am
fast asleep. I wake with a start, and wonder where I am. I travel
rapidly, and so am one day in France, the next in Holland, the next in
Germany, and perhaps the next in Italy. Under these circumstances, when
first you open your eyes in a strange bedroom it takes you a few seconds
to remember where you are and in what language it is necessary to reply
to the person who is rapping, ‘rapping at your chamber door.’ As a rule,
I generally start up, and exclaim, ‘Eh, what is it? Who are you? Come
in! Entrez! Herein! Entrate!’ and wait for the reply.

Although I was hungry, I was careful to eat sparingly at supper in order
to sleep lightly, and I retired to rest early. At six o’clock I rose and
dressed myself carefully, got the ink in a safe place, put a new pen in
the penholder, spread a clean sheet of blotting-paper on the table, and,
assuming a dignified attitude, waited for the postman. He was to come at
seven. At 9.15 I had to leave by the express for Cologne, _en route_ for
Amsterdam. I sat at the table patiently till eight; no postman. Then I
went downstairs, and made inquiries. ‘Ah, the postman--yes,’ exclaimed
the porter; ‘he came with your registered letter at seven; but he said
you might be asleep, so he wouldn’t disturb. He’ll bring it with the
second delivery, at ten.’

The remark that I made to that porter in reply conveyed a mixed feeling
of rage and despair boiled down into a single word of four letters, of
which the last is superfluous. All my preparations were made to depart
from Bingen at 9.15. The postman was then about the town delivering
letters. I sent after him in all directions to bid him return at once
with my registered letter. Alas! my messengers found him not. I left
word that the letter was to be sent on to Poste Restante, Amsterdam, and
I went away without it.

At Amsterdam I went to the post-office and asked for my registered
letter. ‘There is not one for you,’ was the reply. I fancied I had not
given it time perhaps to get there, so I called again the next day. ‘No
letter.’ I handed in my passport to show the name. The clerk looked in
‘S’ again. ‘No letter.’ I was in despair. At last an idea struck me.
‘Look in “G,” if you please,’ I said. The clerk looked in ‘G’ and
produced my registered letter at once--it had been in ‘G’ for three
days.

The gentleman who attends to my correspondence during my absence has a
playful habit of running the initials of my front names right into the
initial of my surname, and hence the mistake at the post-office. After
all I got my registered letter, but it was a week’s hard work to obtain
it. My earnest advice to travellers on the Continent is ‘never have a
registered letter'; it may detain you in one place for months. If you
have notes sent to you, let them be cut in half, and sent in separate
envelopes to two addresses--one set of halves to your hotel, and the
other to the Poste Restante. Only those who have experience of
registered letters on the Continent and postal eccentricities abroad
will appreciate the value of my little bit of advice.

Holland is to me one of the most interesting countries in Europe. Apart
from the excitement of having to do a bit of Blondin, with the edge of a
canal for your tight-rope, at intervals of a few minutes all day long,
the Dutch themselves furnish you with never-ending study. I love to see
the little Dutch boy of six smoking his clay-pipe or his cigar as he
clings to his mamma’s skirts. There is something at once novel and
startling in finding a Dutch cheese and a penny bun placed in front of
every guest at the breakfast-table. In a land where a public company is
a Maatschappij and nearly every house of restauration announces that the
thirsty traveller can there obtain ‘tapperij, slitterij, and slemp,’
there is always something to amuse you. I had a wild desire to order
‘slitterij and slemp,’ but I couldn’t make up my mind to try and
pronounce them, and I didn’t know what I should get.

Then, again, the names of the streets and the names over the shop-doors
are eminently calculated to tie your eye up in a knot. You get puzzled
when you turn down Wijk 1 and come to Wijk 2, and cross a canal and find
yourself in Wijk 24, and you find some difficulty in telling the waiter
that you want your ‘otbijt’ (breakfast), and your politeness is sorely
tried by having to say ‘Als’ t’v beleft’ whenever you want to say ‘If
you please.’ To come suddenly upon a dog-show and find it called a
Rashondententoonstelling, and upon an announcement which reads
‘Rijnspoorwegmaalschappij aan den daartoe aangewesen vertegenwoordiger’
is calculated to stagger one; but, apart from a language which is trying
alike to the eye and the tongue, Holland is a delightful place, and the
Dutch are a splendid people.

There is a tremendous lot of the English character about the Dutch.
Hoogstraat, Rotterdam, on Sunday night might be High Street, Islington,
at the same time. The boys yell, the girls scream and rush about, and a
dense black crowd surges and shoves up and down and sings and walks
arm-in-arm a dozen wide, and generally comports itself with high spirits
and low habits. A Dutch crowd is English in its rough unconcern for the
delicate shades of etiquette. But individually the Dutch are kind,
hospitable, and most courteous to strangers. The key to the Dutch
character is given in one of their popular ballads;

    ‘Wij leven vrij, vij leven blij
       Op Neerlands dierbren grond;
     Ontworsteld aan de slavernij,
     Zijn wij door eendragt groot en vrij;
     Hier duldt de grond geen dwinglandij
       Waar vrijheld eeuwen stond.’

Roughly translated, this is what the above means:

    ‘We live blithe, we live free,
       On Netherland’s dear shore;
     Delivered from slavery,
     We are through concord free and great;
     The land suffers no tyranny
       Where freedom has subsisted for ages.’

And your Dutchman does as he jolly well likes wherever he goes, and he
doesn’t care a Rotter, an Amster, or a Schie for anybody.

The Hague! The largest village in the world, the residence of the Court
of Holland. It looks quiet as we steam into the station, but the omnibus
is soon filled. I arrive at the hotel I have chosen. The landlord bows
to the ground; my portmanteau is taken in, and then I am offered a table
in the reading-room to sleep upon. ‘No!’ I exclaim, ‘I require a
bedroom.’ The landlord is desolated; but there is not a bedroom in the
hotel. I will go to another. The landlord is desolated again; but all
the hotels are full. Do I not know that the great Medical Congress
commences to-day, that the town is crammed, and that rooms have been
bespoken a month beforehand? I accept the Congress and the situation,
and I pass the night on a sofa in the reading-room surrounded by the
principal journals of the world.

Before I retired to rest, pillowing my head upon _L’Étoile Belge_ and
using as sheets and blanket and counterpane the _Times_, the _New York
Herald_, the _Neue Freie Presse_, the _Gil Bias_, and the _Kolnische
Zeitung_, I took a stroll through the town. You might have walked on the
people’s heads, as the saying is, though it seems to me the people might
always urge very reasonable objections to your doing so. I didn’t go
very far, because I hate crowds, and because to-morrow I am going to do
the Hague ‘thoroughly’ in six hours and a half. But I got as far as a
very nice square, covered with trees, very Dutch and very pretty. ‘I
will sit down on this nice seat,’ I said to myself, ‘and revel in being
so far away from the ordinary routine of English life.’ At that moment a
man came up, and thrust a bill into my hand, and on it I read: ‘Heden
Avona, Grand Café Chantant. Voor het eerst optreden van de beroemden Mis
Maud Haigh en Ada Blanche, het grootste succes van de London Musicall.’

I have made up my mind to go to Scheveningen, the Dutch Brighton, and
loll by the sea and watch the Mynheers and their good vrows bathe, and
young Holland build castles on the sand. I get as far as the
starting-place of the steam tramway, when a huge flaring bill dazzles
me, half blinds me, and brings me to attention sharper than the voice
of my officer ever did when I was in the rifle-corps. (That was years
ago, when I was a good citizen and wanted to defend my country. My
uniform was pepper-and-salt cloth, with scarlet facings, and I am told
that I looked very well in it when I had it all on; but that I generally
managed to go about with a collar, or a cap, or a pair of boots, or
something that was not in keeping with a strictly military get-up. I
remember once going out in a hurry with my uniform on, and in a fit of
absence of mind putting on a tall chimneypot hat. I met the Duke of
Cambridge at the corner of the street, and I shall never forget his face
as long as I live. But this is a digression.)

The bill which brought me up to attention so smartly informs me in huge
letters that ‘Donderdag 21 Augustus,’ at ‘Zeebad Scheveningen,’ there
will be a ‘Groot Zomer-Feest.’ No wonder I start. This very day that I
have made up my mind to escape the Congress at the Hague, it is the
great summer fête of the season at Scheveningen.

I had a delightful week in Holland. Once again I explored the beauties
of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Scheveningen, and the Hague, and my great
regret was that I had not time to accept an invitation given me to visit
the pauper colonies of Frederiksoord, Wilhelminaoord, and Wilhelmsoord,
where the Dutch have made a most successful attempt to solve one of the
great questions of the day. There is very little mendicancy in Holland,
and pauperism is dealt with in a rational manner. At these colonies each
adult, if able-bodied and willing to work, is provided with a few acres
of land, a cow, a pig, and a few sheep, and the majority of the pauper
colonists are made (after the first outlay) self-supporting for the rest
of their days. There is strict discipline, of course, and the places
are never allowed to be tempting homes for the vagabond. At Veenhuisen
there are also colonies which are more penal in their character. These
are for the idle and disorderly and for beggars.

I wonder that the pauper colonies of Holland and the Dutch system of
dealing with vagrancy have not attracted more attention, seeing how
burning is the question in this country, ‘What shall we do with our
poor?’ The subject is well worth study, and an English delegate or two
sent to the pauper colonies might return with some valuable information.

The Dutch, like the English, do not possess the genius of outdoor
refreshment. The cafés and beer-houses are mostly under cover, and in
all but the larger establishments you sit close, and are not
over-burthened with light; but the Dutch enjoy themselves, and cling to
old customs and old costumes with a conservatism which is part and
parcel of the national character. They have had to fight the ocean for
every inch of Holland, and they are a brave and a grand people who have
triumphed over difficulties which might have caused Hercules to throw up
the sponge. Such a people does not wear its heart on its sleeve and
frivol and indulge in outward show.

The only thing that can be urged against the Dutch is the excessive
cleanliness of the Dutch housewife. She scrubs and cleans and polishes
every day and all day. The streets are generally impassable on Saturday
afternoon, because every window is being washed with water ejected from
an enormous squirt. An army of buckets lines the footpath, an army of
housemaids is kneeling scrubbing at the steps for dear life, auxiliaries
are polishing up door-handles, and everywhere you hear the swish of the
water and the rasp of the besom. You think this cleanliness is charming
at first. After about a week of it, when your shins are black and blue
from falling over buckets and you have rheumatism all over you from
wading knee-deep through rivers of water in the narrow streets, you
think you can do with a little less of it.



CHAPTER XXVI.

ANTWERP AND BRUSSELS.


London was hot, and London was noisy. Everybody was leaving London, but
the more the people poured out of it the noisier it seemed to get.
Moreover, it was dull. So I said to myself, said I, ‘I’ll get out of
it.’

Thus said I to myself, said I, and off I went; and on a hot Saturday
afternoon I got into a train at Liverpool Street, and went down to the
sea with three Dutchmen and two Belgians; and when for two mortal hours
we had been baked and boiled and fried in a compartment that must have
been specially heated by a private pipe from the kitchen of his Majesty
King Pluto, we arrived at Harwich, and went, ‘all that was left of us,’
on board a vessel; and then the whistle blew, and the anchor was heaved,
and the harbour lights grew faint and fainter on our lea, and presently
a lovely little breeze sprang up, and we were out on the open sea
cleaving the waves, and making the best of our way towards Flanders.

I had a berth in a cabin with four other gentlemen. The berth was
excellent, the sheets were sweet and clean as snow, the pillow was soft,
and all was there to tempt one to sleep as soundly as the cabin-boy
mentioned by our grand William. But, alas! one of the gentlemen in my
cabin snored as surely never mortal snored before, and another dreamed
dreams, and dreamed them aloud. Now he was pursued by banditti, and
vowed that he would only surrender his purse with his life; anon, he was
on a precipice, and before being hurled over it, he begged a few
minutes’ respite that he might make his will. So much I gathered from
his disjointed remarks. Towards two in the morning the will must have
been made, and he must have been lying senseless at the foot of the
precipice, for he broke the silence of the night no more. But the
snoring gentleman snored louder than ever, and I lay and tossed, and
grew hot, and longed for daylight, and when daylight came I went on deck
and drank in the cool morning air and some hot coffee, and wondered
whether at any time the country on both sides of the Scheldt had been
rolled so beautifully level by a steam-roller. At half-past nine we were
alongside the quay at Antwerp, and the sweet chimes of the cathedral
rang out a dulcet welcome that promised rest and repose.

Rest and repose! Alas! it was fête-day at Antwerp. It was ‘festa,’ as
they say in Italy, and there was no peace that day for the native or the
stranger within the gates. All Antwerp and its wife, or its sweetheart,
turned out for the Kermesse. Through the streets in the heat of the day
there passed the great procession of the Church. Hundreds of waving
banners, thousands of candles, brazen images held aloft, a band, a
chorus of mellow voices chanting, and then, under a broad canopy of
gold, a sacred symbol to which, as it passed, the mighty crowd
reverently bared the head and bowed the knee. A fine sight, a
magnificent spectacle! I saw it four times, doubling on it down
side-streets as the boys double on the Lord Mayor’s Show. And all the
time the vertical rays of the sun poured down on the back of my neck,
and I would have given all the circular notes in my pocket for a
cabbage-leaf.

All day long the people stopped in the streets and sang songs and drank
beer, and at night we had fireworks and ‘a grand harmony,’ and the
tramcars were loaded with fifty or sixty people at a time, and only one
little horse to draw the lot. Poor horses! how they must dread ‘festa'!
The drivers in most countries double their fares, but the horses fare
worse than ever. It was midnight before Antwerp settled down into its
usual calm, and the noisiest Sunday I have known for years came to an
end.

If ever you want to see how closely a church can be made to resemble a
theatre, go to Antwerp Cathedral about noon, when the strangers come to
see the Rubens pictures, which are covered with green baize curtains
during the hours of service lest those who come to worship should get a
peep at the paintings for nothing.

About twelve, when the service is over, the poor and the devout are
driven out, and the sacristan and the guides swoop down on the
foreigners and drive them up into a corner; and then seats are brought,
and one fancies one’s self in the stalls or the pit of a theatre,
especially when an attendant in uniform comes round and demands a franc
from each spectator before the green baize curtain rises on the show.

Many Englishmen, I have no doubt, share with me an antipathy to being
‘guided’ through cathedrals, picture-galleries, and museums on the
Continent. But no one should miss the Antwerp pictures. ‘The Descent
from the Cross’ makes one forget the flippancy and bad English of the
guide. One doffs one’s hat reverently to Peter Paul Rubens, and yields
one’s imagination to him without a murmur.

When I entered the ‘sacred edifice’ the famous Rubens pictures were
uncovered. A British tourist in a violent red and yellow tweed suit was
staring at ‘The Descent from the Cross’ through a pair of race-glasses,
while the raucous-voiced and grinning guide, who seems nowadays to be
part and parcel of a cathedral, was explaining carefully to him that the
fat female was the painter’s wife. I wish I had never known that the
well-developed and modern lady who constantly appears in Peter Paul’s
pictures was Mrs. Rubens. One can have too much even of this lady, whom
I once heard an American irreverently describe as ‘Mrs. R.’ Rubens could
no more keep the head of Mrs. R. (would that he had been satisfied with
the head!) out of his pictures, than Mr. Dick could keep King Charles’s
head out of his memorials, and I can’t help thinking that, had she been
a Mrs. Jackson, instead of ‘a model wife,’ it would have been a distinct
gain to art.

Irritated by the eternal Mrs. R., the tourist with the race-glasses, and
the irreverent comments of the grinning guide, I turned from the Rubens
picture, and seeing a crowd in the centre of the building, made my way
towards it. I found myself in front of a beautifully-decorated ‘May
altar.’ Evidently some ceremony was expected, for on both sides was a
densely-packed mob of bareheaded women and girls. I asked what was
expected, and someone told me at three o’clock was to take place ‘the
benediction of the children.’ Wondering what this might mean, I waited
patiently, and my patience was later on rewarded by a touching and
beautiful spectacle.

Presently a priest came out of the gloomy recesses of the cathedral,
clad in raiment of white and gold, and ascended the altar-steps and
waited. Soon afterwards there came from the far corner of the cathedral,
by the small entrance door, the faint sound of little children’s voices
singing. All that one could hear as the baby chorus rose and fell was
‘Ave Maria.’ Nearer and nearer came the sound, and every head was turned
in one direction. Then there came into sight a long procession of baby
girls and boys, walking bareheaded, two and two. There were some two
hundred children, and not one of them was over seven. The little girls
were perfect Rubens babies; chubby-faced and rosy-cheeked, and their
fair hair was prettily tied with gay ribbons, pink and blue being the
prevailing colours. The little baby-boys had each his right arm tied up
with a light blue or pink bow, and every little boy and every little
girl carried a candle as an offering to the Virgin. Slowly the sweet
procession filed along, the children breaking out from time to time in
their little hymn of praise. The procession passed between the crowd of
mothers and sisters right up to the altar, and then the good priest took
from each little hand the candle it bore aloft and laid it on the
altar-steps. All the children passed to the chairs arranged for them,
and then the sunshine streamed through the stained-glass windows on
their little sea of golden curls, making a picture that will linger in
my mind for many a year to come.

After the children had presented their candles, a few lame and sickly
little ones were carried up to the altar by their mothers to give
theirs. One baby-boy had to be coaxed to let his candle go. He had been
playfully beating his nurse with it, after the manner of infants, and
when he got to the priest he had succeeded in putting the candle into
his mouth. Gently the priest unclosed the little fist, and, patting the
baby on the head, took the candle and laid it with the rest, while all
the mothers smiled.

The last candle had been given up, the last child had been quietly
seated in its chair, and there was a deep silence. Then a little girl of
about six--a pretty little mite, with long fair hair, dressed in a
red-spotted frock and a white pinafore--was lifted on to a chair in
front of the altar, and, raising her little hands, she began to speak.
The whole proceedings were in Flemish, and the child’s words hardly
reached me, as I stood at the edge of the crowd, so I may be wrong in
saying that it was a speech--it might have been a prayer. Whatever it
was it was intensely dramatic, and yet sweetly simple. Amid the dead
silence that reigned in the great cathedral, the little mite spoke for
nearly five minutes, using her hands with the grace and skill of a baby
Bernhardt. And the mothers--rough working women, coarse of frock, stern
of feature, and innocent of headgear most of them--wept. Some of the
fathers--artisans and dock-labourers--who had come to see their children
take part in the ceremony, tugged at their moustaches for a bit and blew
their noses defiantly, and then rubbed their knuckles in their eyes, and
at last gave it up as a bad job and let the big tears come. I could see
the tears in the good priest’s eyes as he listened to the baby’s speech,
and when she sat down, and the women, overcome with emotion, sobbed, I
had to yield to the influence of my surroundings, and I bit my lip hard
and had a wild struggle with the apple in my throat, and then I had to
let the salt drops have their way.

I would give a good deal to be able to paint that scene, to reproduce on
canvas that beautiful May altar in Antwerp Cathedral, and the great
congregation of fair-haired, blue-eyed Flemish babies, in their simple
little frocks and their pretty ribbons, all sitting as still as mice
while their little playmate, standing on a chair, lifted her baby hands
to heaven and prayed her prayer. I would that I were even an artist in
words that I might give you some faint idea of the simple grandeur, the
quiet pathos, the gentle beauty of that ‘children’s service’ in the
great cathedral. Alas, that glorious privilege is not mine! I am but a
journeyman labourer in the great field of literature. I can but bow my
head and uncover when the Angelus rings out, and leave you to read upon
my face the message that it carries to my soul. I only know that in
Antwerp Cathedral that sunny afternoon the message of the children
touched me as no words of man have ever touched me yet, and I stole
softly away from the flower-laden altar of the Mother of God, and passed
out into the busy world with a baby’s voice whispering words of hope and
comfort to my doubting and desponding heart.

In the evening the scene was changed. On the Place Verte I was stopped
by a mighty procession, headed by a band, and bearing illuminated
banners. It was a Liberal manifestation, and five thousand lusty
Liberals were yelling, ‘Down with the Jesuit schools!’ Presently, in an
opposite direction, came a Catholic demonstration several thousand
strong. They also had a band, and a yell, and a battle-cry. I was in the
middle of the two processions, and I stopped till they met.

Then the fun began, and the police rushed in, and sticks were whirled
about, and feet and fists went busily to work. I had dropped in for a
political riot. Heads were broken--thank goodness, not mine. I managed
to scramble out of the crowd and get behind a tree. After a good fight
the processions separated and marched in different directions, shouting,
hooting, cheering, singing. The whole town was in an uproar. The row was
deafening. Till long past midnight the rival bands promenaded, and twice
again they met and fought, and the sticks came down like a rain of hail.
In Antwerp the political feeling is fiercer than in any part of Belgium,
and the enmity of Liberals and Catholics leads at times to considerable
bloodshed. I followed the Liberals, as they looked the stronger, and I
huzzaed and shouted ‘Hear, hear!’ when a stand was made and a speech
delivered.

But directly the fighting began I retired to a convenient distance. It
was past one in the morning when I withdrew from the battlefield of the
Liberals and the Catholics, but the shouts of the rival factions rang in
my ears until I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. I shall have to try
Holland. I have heard of a very nice quiet place there where the
peaceful Dutch enjoy themselves, and only express their joy in a quiet
grunt. I sincerely hope there won’t be a fête or a riot on when I arrive
at the next station of my journey in search of a day’s repose.

Enough of Antwerp. I tear myself away from Rubens and Quentin Matsys,
from the silver chimes and the little carts drawn by the poor docile
dogs; I blush and pass by the shop-window that exhibits ‘Borgia
s’amuse,’ and I put my luggage on a fly and drive to the station. I
arrive at Antwerp station half an hour before the train starts, and I
consume five-and-twenty minutes of that spare time in a process
peculiarly Continental, known as registering the baggage. At last I am
allowed to pay a fabulous price for the carriage of my portmanteau. I
enter the train and I start.

I had said to myself, said I, ‘I will go to Brussels. It is a hot day.
There will be no one in the wide, clean streets. I will potter about the
Galerie de la Reine; I will climb the Rue Montagne de la Cour, and I
will sit on a ten centimes chair in the park, and watch the clean
Brussels nurses and the pretty little Brussels babies. I love to
contemplate innocence. It rests the jaded eye and improves the _blasé_
mind. So to Brussels I went, and when I got out at the station I thought
‘Bedlam’ had broken loose. Thousands of men dressed in the usual
fête-day costume of the ‘braves Belges'--all black--were promenading the
streets with tickets stuck in their hats. In their hands they had flags
and dolls and long trumpets and Japanese parasols. Shouting and singing
and pouring through the streets in lines of twenty arm-in-arm, they
carried all before them, and I had to dart into shops, to climb
lamp-posts, and to crawl under the tables outside the cafés, or over and
over again I should have been borne along by the mighty procession. Once
I snatched at a flag and a Japanese umbrella, and thought it would be
better to fall in and shout and sing; but I felt that an Englishman
might recognise me, and my character would be gone for ever. So I went
up a very narrow street, where there was only room for one person at a
time, and hid in a doorway and waited till a policeman came by. Then I
asked him what was the matter. He told me that to-day was the
fifty-fourth anniversary of the National Independence, and all Belgium
had gone mad and come to Brussels. That I should have chosen this of all
days in the year! I am indeed the victim of a relentless fate--I mean
‘fête.’

In Brussels I went to the Wiertz Museum. Antoine Wiertz, the mad
painter, the ‘eccentric genius’ who refused to sell his pictures and
flung back to the ‘patrons of art’ their proffered gold at a time that
he was almost starving, crying out that gold was the murderer of art, is
slowly but surely earning the fame for which he pined during his
lifetime. That Wiertz was mad I have not the slightest doubt, but his
madness was that to which ‘great genius is oft allied,’ and the world
owes much to its madmen. I would a million times rather be mad with
Wiertz than sane with some of the gentlemen who cover the walls of the
Academy with pictures of ‘Eliza, Wife of Jeremiah Snooks, Esq.,’ ‘A
Soldier Buying a Baked Potato,’ ‘The Dying Cabman’s Farewell to his
Badge,’ ‘Wandsworth Parish Pump by Moonlight,’ ‘A Roman Lady Taking an
Eighteenpenny Bath,’ or ‘A Greek God Waiting for his Shirt to Come Home
from the Wash.’

The story of the life of Wiertz, the mad painter of Brussels, is a
romance which belongs to the heroic age. It is a romance which is as
startling in these matter-of-fact and money-grubbing days as the
Clitheroe case would have been in the days of Eros and Psyche.

Wiertz was born in 1806 in Dinant, on the banks of the Meuse, and he
died in 1865 in Brussels. He wanted to be Rubens at fourteen, and he
spent his life in trying to be Rubens. He began to paint in a granary,
which was so low that as he grew he had to stoop in it to avoid hitting
his head against the roof. He starved to paint, and he painted for a
long time only to starve. He attracted attention at last, and then he
was allowed to paint in empty factories and lofty unused warehouses,
because these were the only places where he could put up the huge
canvases he sought to cover. His picture of the Greeks and Trojans
contending for the body of Patroclus is thirty feet high and twenty feet
wide. It is his grandest work, and the one which will live on through
the centuries. All through his life he endured the most terrible
disappointments, but at last he secured a studio where he could carry
out his gigantic ideas. The Government gave it him, and there in a side
street in Brussels he lived and painted, and to-day his house and studio
form the Wiertz Museum, and there you can see his life-work, for he was
true to his convictions to the end, and sold nothing.

In his later years he gave the reins to his fiery, untamed imagination,
and it reared up occasionally and eventually bolted with him. Some of
the paintings which adorn the museum you would only expect to find in a
lunatic asylum where they have had artists for patients. Many of them
are madly horrible, and their horror is heightened by a method of
arrangement which is only worthy of the murder department of a waxwork
exhibition. And yet the genius of the man is sublime. A hundred years
hence he will be world-famous. To-day, outside Belgium he is
comparatively little known.

Next to his ‘Patroclus’ his finest works are ‘The Triumph of Christ,’
‘The Revolt of Hell,’ and ‘The Forge of Vulcan.’ But for one person who
goes to admire these magnificent creations, a hundred go to the museum
to gaze on the horrible, the grotesque, and the fantastic specimens of
his art. One of his pictures, ‘The Thoughts and Visions of a Severed
Head,’ is enough to make a nervous man have a fit in the building. I
have just read a story in a magazine which professes to be a true
account of what a decapitated head saw. The author has probably seen
Wiertz’s picture, and worked up the details in connection with
hypnotism. The picture shows what the head of a guillotined man sees and
_thinks_ the first moment, the second moment, and the third moment after
decapitation. It might with great propriety be called ‘The Nightmare of
Jack the Ripper, after eating a whole cold sucking-pig for supper.’

You look through a peephole to see ‘Hunger, Madness, Crime,’ and you
behold a remarkably realistic picture of a young mad mother cutting up
her baby in order to have it for dinner. The bleeding body is in the
mother’s lap; the foot and leg of the child are sticking out of the
saucepan which is on the kitchen fire. I have a photograph of this
picture hanging in my study now. Every time I look at it, portions of my
hair, beard, and moustache turn white.

You look through another peephole, and see your own face, and, by a
clever contrivance, all the rest of the picture is ‘Old Nick.’ Startled,
you turn away, and you come upon a mad dog. He is tearing at his chain.
You spring back, for you think it is a real dog. It is a madman’s trick,
and is painted on the wall, and intended to frighten you. Near it is the
picture of a gentleman who has been buried in cholera times. The
interment has been ‘a little too previous,’ and you see a living man
madly trying to get out of his coffin. But heavy coffins are on one half
of his ‘casket,’ and amid the ghastly surroundings of the charnel-house
you know he will have to die of slow starvation.

A Belgian lady struggling with a French soldier fires a revolver in his
face. The face which you see is pleasantly described in the catalogue as
‘shattered into an indistinguishable mass of agony and horror.’ ‘The
Orphans’ is an awful picture of a family of children fighting with the
undertaker for their father’s corpse. They don’t want the strange man to
take ‘papa’ from them. You turn away with a shudder, and your hair rises
on end. A woman opposite you is dragging a shrieking blistered child
from a cradle which has caught fire. The flesh seems to peel from the
little body as the terrified woman drags it from the flaming bassinette.
With your eyeballs starting from their sockets you shriek for somebody
to give you an arm to lean on that you may totter out, and then you
pause and burst into a roar of laughter. M. Wiertz has had a funny fit,
and painted for you the wife who wished for a black-pudding, and the
husband who wished that it might stick to the end of her nose.

I need not take you through the catalogue of the master’s mad vagaries
and sickening atrocities. Once out in the air and the sunlight again,
you gradually forget them; but his noble and heroic works, his idyllic
and beautiful works, once seen will never fade from your memory. You
have only to look upon his ‘Patroclus’ and his ‘Triumph of Christ,’ and
you know that you have been in the presence of ‘one of the great ones of
the earth'--an artistic giant, a mighty genius, born in an age which has
no room for genius that is above the regulation standard.

Wiertz died as he had lived--a disappointed man. His body and mind both
gave way at last. He had sworn to rival Rubens, and he came very near
the master once; but the fatal taint in his blood overpowered him, and
he descended to the ghastly horrors of the charnel-house and the
guillotine, and to arranging cannibal mothers and buried-alive bodies as
peep-shows. He was raving when he died. In his last delirium he shrieked
for his brushes and his palette. ‘Quick! quick!’ he cried; ‘bring them
to me. Oh, the picture I shall paint! Oh, I will surpass Raphael!’ And,
shrieking out what mighty things he meant to do, he fell back
motionless, and passed into the great silence.

The fame he longed for during his life has come, even after his death,
but slowly. But it will increase, and it will last. And this is the best
way for fame to come to any man who works not for his own little day,
but for the long ages the world has yet to know.


                               THE END.


                BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                        GEORGE R. SIMS’S BOOKS.


=Rogues and Vagabonds.= Post 8vo., illustrated boards, 2s.;
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hour--political, social, judicial, and military--will afford abundant
entertainment.'--_Daily News._


=How the Poor Live=; and =Horrible London=. With a
Vignette by F. BARNARD. Crown 8vo., picture cover, 1s.; cloth,
1s. 6d.

‘Mr. Sims describes what he has actually seen. He visited the worst dens
of London. He sketches all the aspects of this gloomy side of London
life, its grim humour as well as its deplorable.'--_Daily News._


LONDON: CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY.





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